Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Smithwick Tribunal: Families of murdered RUC men may not get to see collusion report before it's made public

The scene of the IRA ambush in which Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were killed in March 1989
Chief Superintendent Harry Breen
Superintendent Bob Buchanan

The family of one of two senior RUC officer murdered amid claims of Garda/IRA collusion is concerned it may not get advance sight of the 1,100-page report from the probe into how they died.

Superintendent Bob Buchanan was killed in an IRA ambush on March 20, 1989 along with Chief Superintendent Harry Breen as they returned to Northern Ireland following a meeting at Dundalk Garda station.

There were claims at the time that members of the Garda colluded with the IRA in their murder.

The Smithwick Tribunal has been probing these allegations since 2005, hearing from almost 200 witnesses over 122 days.

The final report from the tribunal was handed to the Dail in Dublin yesterday afternoon by Judge Peter Smithwick.

It is expected to be made public some time in the next two weeks, after being scrutinised by the Republic's Public Prosecution Service and Northern Ireland's Attorney General, who was represented at the tribunal.

There has been speculation it may be released next Wednesday, or on December 15, the same day Ireland regains its financial sovereignty from the EU after the banking crisis bailout.

Sources have told the Belfast Telegraph that the report is viewed by the Irish Government as a big problem. It will include findings and recommendations

Not all of these recommendations may be made public as the PPS or Attorney General could recommend they be redacted if they relate to national security.

The families of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan have not been told if they will get advance sight of the report.

It is understood that it is up to Dublin to grant permission for interested parties to have advance sight before it is released to the public.

This is in stark contrast to the public inquiries held in Northern Ireland into claims of collusion in the loyalist murder of Rosemary Nelson, and also the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.

Supt Buchanan's son William attended many of the public hearings of the Smithwick Tribunal and is concerned that he may not get to see the report before it is made public.

His solicitor Ernie Waterworth has called on the Irish Government to allow him to read the report some hours before it is published online.

Mr Waterworth said his client hads a right to read the details of his father's death and any findings of collusion ahead of the public.

Mr Buchanan revealed earlier this month that he was not consulted about having a public inquiry into his father's death before unionist politicians brought it up at the Weston Park negotiations.

He has described the experience as difficult, and he hopes to know within weeks if the last eight years have been worth it.

"I'm not sure what my feeling will be," said Mr Buchanan, who was 25 when his father was killed.

"I just don't know whether I'll view it as a lost eight years, whatever it happens to be.

"I will be a lot more open with you when I see the content and have time to digest it," he added.

Banbridge solicitor John McBurney, who represents the family of Chief Supt Breen, said it was deeply appreciative of all the work that the tribunal had done, uncovering details about how the murders came about.

Yesterday afternoon the clerk of the Dail confirmed it had received the Smithwick Tribunal report.

FACTFILE

The Smithwick Tribunal is the first – and most likely only – probe into alleged Garda/IRA collusion. It was set up by the Irish Government in 2005 to look at allegations that members of the Garda had colluded with the IRA in the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan on March 20, 1989. It has run for eight years and cost an estimated €10m, although this bill is set to rise significantly when legal fees and expenses are paid.

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