Belfast Telegraph

Garda 'told not to aid ambush quiz'

A former Irish prime minister ordered police chiefs not to co-operate with an investigation into an IRA attack which killed 18 British soldiers in 1979, it has been alleged at a tribunal.

A retired high-ranking Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer has claimed he was told by his Garda counterparts in the Irish Republic, that the Narrow Water ambush, near Warrenpoint in County Down, Northern Ireland, was to be treated as a political crime.

The atrocity, on August 27 1979, resulted in the highest death toll suffered by the British Army in a single incident in Northern Ireland, and came just hours after the Queen's cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed in a bomb on his boat off County Sligo in the Republic.

The former RUC officer, who cannot be identified, was giving evidence at the Smithwick Tribunal, which is investigating allegations of Garda/IRA collusion during the Troubles.

Appearing by video-link from Belfast, he told the Dublin hearings he attended a meeting with two senior Garda CID officers and an Assistant Commissioner McLaughlin in Dublin Castle in April 1980.

"The meeting became quite acrimonious," said the retired officer, referred to as Witness 68. "Mr McLaughlin declared the taoiseach, from the outset of the inquiry, decreed that the killings were a political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC."

Jack Lynch was taoiseach, or Irish prime minister, at the time of the booby-trap bombing, and was succeeded by Charles Haughey the following December.

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion over the IRA murders of senior RUC officers Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan on the Irish border, minutes after a Garda meeting.

Witness 68, chief investigating officer in the Narrow Water bombing, said Garda co-operation during the inquiry was beyond non-existent. A suspected detonation site, in the Irish Republic, had been destroyed before RUC forensic officers examined it, he said.

The retired detective, who went on to become deputy assistant chief constable of the RUC, claimed senior Garda officers told RUC investigators during a fourth and final meeting at Dublin Castle that nothing further would be released about the massacre and not to come back.

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