Thursday 23 November 2017

RUC tribunal 'must not be obstructed'

Alan Murray

The solicitor representing the family of the most senior RUC officer to be murdered by the IRA has called on Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to give a solemn undertaking in the Dail that the tribunal investigating his death will not be obstructed.

Solicitor John McBurney -- who represents the family of the late Chief Superintendent Harry Breen -- told the Sunday Independent that he was gravely concerned at the Cabinet's proposal to compel the Smithwick Tribunal to conclude its work by November this year.

Mr McBurney said he wanted to meet Mr Shatter before a debate is held in the Dail on a proposal to truncate the investigation of possible collusion in the murders of Harry Breen and his RUC colleague Superintendent Bob Buchanan in 1989.

"I am gravely concerned that a mechanism is being put in place by the Irish Government to guillotine the work of the Smithwick Tribunal.

"This tribunal was set up as a result of what is, to all intents and purposes, a treaty between two sovereign states to establish the facts behind the murders of these two senior RUC officers and examine if there was collusion by members of the Garda Siochana or other employees of the State to facilitate this ambush," Mr McBurney said yesterday.

The solicitor has been in contact with staff at the Smithwick Tribunal since he learned of the Government's intention to demand a report from Judge Peter Smithwick to be presented to the Dail next month. "I have indicated to the tribunal the dismay and exasperation felt as a consequence of this crass attempt by government to interfere with the normal progress and independence of this sensitive and complex inquiry.

"It would be grossly unfair were the tribunal to be characterised as a puppet of the Government as a consequence of this curtailing and restraining action. I have outlined to the tribunal my wide-ranging concerns."

The North's First Minister Peter Robinson is being kept fully briefed on Government's proposals and the difficulties they may create for the progress of the tribunal. He has also requested a meeting with the Minister. Mr Robinson is said to be concerned that an attempt will be made to terminate the tribunal shortly.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson added: "The progress of this inquiry or its obstruction will be closely monitored by the Unionist community. Obstruction by the Irish Government would damage relations between North and South."

.Mr Shatter has denied the Cabinet's proposal is designed to hobble the tribunal, which was established in 2005.

Sunday Independent

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