A tribunal investigating the deaths of the two most senior RUC officers to be murdered by the IRA has given its first public hint that it wants to interview more Army and police intelligence officers.
In a statement this week the Smithwick Tribunal admitted that it was taking “longer than expected” to complete its inquiries with witnesses who reside in Britain.
The tribunal was set up in 2005 to investigate allegations of Garda collusion in the IRA ambush of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan in south Armagh in 1989.
It is known that the chair of the tribunal, Judge Peter Smithwick, has had correspondence with the Attorney General’s office in London and is now engaged in |correspondence with Treasury |solicitors over the introduction of evidence from former Army |intelligence officer Ian Hurst.
It is understood that Hurst, the subject of a 2006 Panorama programme after his computer was hacked into, has met with the judge about giving evidence in Dublin about Army agent ‘Stakeknife’. Stakeknife operated on the border interrogating alleged informants within the IRA, many of whom were executed.
Discussions between Hurst and Smithwick are shrouded in secrecy. The Tribunal’s statement has fuelled speculation that the judge may seek to interview other former military figures who worked in the Force Research Unit with Hurst, former RUC Special Branch officers and possibly even MI5 officers.
West Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci has denied being Stakeknife but in 2006 his lawyers unsuccessfully applied to the Tribunal to represent him. So far no material is believed to have been uncovered to directly link Scappaticci to the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.
RUC chiefs Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan were murdered in an IRA ambush after leaving Dundalk Garda station in March 1989. Claims of collusion between Garda and the IRA led to the Smithwick Tribunal in May 2005, but key witnesses have failed to co-operate with it.