Northern Ireland

Smithwick Tribunal: Reaction to Irish police collusion

Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan
Image caption Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered by an IRA gang in 1989

The Irish government has apologised after a public inquiry found that Irish police colluded in the IRA murders of two Northern Ireland police officers.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were the most senior Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers to be murdered during the Troubles.

They were shot dead in an IRA ambush in south Armagh in March 1989.

Two Irish ministers apologised on behalf of the state for the failings identified by the Smithwick Tribunal.

The tribunal was set up in 2005 to examine allegations that Irish police officers (gardaí) had helped the IRA gang to target the RUC officers

In his final report, published on Tuesday, the tribunal chairman Peter Smithwick said that while there had been no "smoking gun" he was satisfied that there had been collusion by one or more gardaí in the murders.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste) Eamon Gilmore

"Today we must acknowledge and confront the central grave finding of the Smithwick Tribunal report that there was collusion with the IRA from within An Garda Síochána (Irish police) in the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan.

"Whilst Judge Smithwick does not find direct evidence of collusion in the killings, he concludes, on the balance of probabilities that collusion did occur involving an unidentified member, or members, of An Garda Síochána.

"I am appalled and saddened by this finding; it is a matter of grave public concern."

Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter

"It is a matter of the utmost gravity that he (Judge Smithwick) has concluded that an unidentified member, or unidentified members, of An Garda Síochána in Dundalk Garda station colluded with the IRA and that collusion resulted in the tragic death of two respected RUC officers.

"I want to, on behalf of the government and the state, unreservedly apologise to the families of both men for any failings on the part of this state."

William Buchanan, son of murder victim

"The findings of Judge Smithwick are both incredible and shocking, and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station - this led to my father's death and that of his colleague Harry Breen.

"I, on behalf of my sister Heather and the wider Buchanan family, wish to place on record our appreciation for the diligence and the integrity of Judge Smithwick and his team.

"They have been untiring in the performance of their task and we trust that the state will take cognisance of the findings and learn valuable lessons for the future."

Breen family statement issued by their solicitor

"Judge Smithwick's report is a truly remarkable expose and indictment of wrongdoing and collusion with terrorists within An Garda Síochána. It details in the most stark and dramatic fashion the failure by state systems to address these matters year upon year.

"The family of Chief Superintendent Breen and many others held deep fears and concerns about the circumstances surrounding the tragic murder of Harry and his esteemed colleague Bob.

"Those abiding fears and concerns have now been fully realised with collusion firmly established after eight years of painstaking investigation, 132 days days of public hearings and evidence from 198 witnesses.

"An Garda Síochána as a body was held in high regard by Chief Supt Breen. He enjoyed a good and professional working relationship with various members of An Garda Síochána over the years of his service with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

"It is tragic that he was betrayed in the manner established by Judge Smithwick whilst he was engaged in significant policing endeavours of important to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and An Garda Síochána and the jurisdictions served by both."

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

"My first thoughts are with the families of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan.

"They were two brave police officers dedicated to upholding the law and protecting the community from terrorism. The publication of the report will be very difficult for their families.

"The report raises some serious concerns which I will need to consider in detail and discuss with the Irish government.

"An important point to remember is that levels of cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI are now at unprecedented levels and are playing a crucial part in combating terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford

"The first reaction you have to have today is to think of the Breen and Buchanan families. They suffered dreadful trauma when they lost members of their family, now they are re-facing it again with the publication of the report.

"My understanding from a brief take, is that the report indicates that there was probably, on the balance of probabilities, collusion between a garda officer and the IRA.

"That doesn't mean that there was collusion on the part of the whole organisation and they haven't been able to identify any specific individual, but it does show that there were problems in the past.

"The important thing for me, as minister now, is that we continue to work together - the PSNI and An Garda Síochána, the two ministers, the two departments - to ensure a united fight against organised crime and terrorism.

Democratic Unionist Party MP Gregory Campbell

"I, like many people, think that this confirms what we already knew - that there was indeed collusion between some garda officers and members of the Provisional IRA.

"In fact, when you look back down through the years and see how many extradition warrants were declined, the governments in the Republic of the day consistently refused to hand over IRA suspects.

"We saw the border being used as a safe haven for the IRA to escape across, and now we have this confirmation. So it is really a damning indictment of that one incident, but there were others."

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams

"The Smithwick Tribunal was established as a result of an agreement in negotiations in Weston Park in 2001 between the British and Irish governments and the political parties."

"Sinn Féin supported these inquires on the basis that families had the right to full disclosure of all relevant information."

Mr Adams also told Irish broadcaster RTÉ that some of the tribunal's findings appeared to be contradictory.

"On the one hand, the judge says he has not uncovered direct evidence of collusion and then goes on to say, on the balance of probability, some form may have occurred. So we have to read all of this and study it," the Sinn Féin president said.

Ulster Unionist Party justice spokesperson Tom Elliot

"We pay tribute to the bravery and dedication of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan as RUC officers and our thoughts are with their families at this time.

"The Irish minister for foreign affairs said in a recent speech in Cambridge that the Irish government had to address the perception among unionists that successive Irish governments did not do enough to stop the IRA.

"We welcomed that statement as a useful first step. Judge Smithwick's confirmation that it is more than a perception will require the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) to take the next step to address unionist concerns."

Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA Dolores Kelly

"The SDLP accept the findings of the Smithwick Tribunal and in doing so would like to acknowledge the bravery and persistence of the Breen and Buchanan families.

"The Smithwick Tribunal took an independent and fearless approach and this should be a measure of how to deal with the past. Judge Smithwick, through a trying process and painstaking work has gotten to the bottom of this tragedy."

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

"The Garda Commissioner has welcomed the publication of the final report of the Smithwick Tribunal. The report was received by the Garda Commissioner this evening on its publication.

"It extends to several hundred pages and appendixes reflecting eight years of work by the tribunal.

"Given the serious matters under examination by the tribunal, the report, conclusions and recommendations will now need to be carefully examined by the Garda Commissioner and his senior officers and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Police Service of Northern Ireland statement

"The PSNI will take time to study the content of the report in detail.

"The murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan are still open (investigations). PSNI has fully engaged with and supported the Smithwick Tribunal and any new evidence that comes to light as a result will be fully considered and assessed.

"We would once again express our sympathy to the families of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan and appeal to anyone with information to contact police on 0845 600 8000."

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins

Mr Collins said this was a "no holds barred" report and represented a vindication of the previous Irish government's decision to establish the Smithwick tribunal.

He rejected suggestions that there was any widespread form of "soft collusion" between IRA and the Irish police force, an Garda Siochána.

"As an Irish republican myself, the Irish people repudiated what the Provisional IRA stood for and their actions," he said.

"Unfortunately, a small number of people let down An Garda Siochána, the force, and the Irish people."