Belfast Telegraph

Tribunal questions former IRA chief

A former IRA commander involved in the ambush and killing of two senior RUC officers has been questioned by a tribunal probing allegations of garda collusion in the murders.

The ex-high-ranking figure was among three members of the terrorist group quizzed by lawyers for the Smithwick Tribunal over the killings of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

The officers were returning from a meeting with a top Garda in Dundalk, Co Louth, when they were ambushed and killed just north of the border in Co Armagh in March 1989.

Senior tribunal counsel Mary Laverty called the recent face-to-face talks unprecedented but did not give details about the meeting, claiming it would be premature and inappropriate at this stage.

"Those former members included former leadership at both national and local (south Armagh) level," Ms Laverty said.

"One of the three former personnel had first-hand knowledge of the Provisional IRA operation on March 20, 1989, and had a command role in that operation."

Ms Laverty said the former personnel gave a detailed account of the events leading to the RUC officers' deaths and replied to questions posed by the tribunal's legal team.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the tribunal asked the party's leadership if it could facilitate an engagement with the IRA.

Mr Adams, who won a Dail seat for the Co Louth constituency in the March general election, said party chiefs found there could be no engagement as the IRA had "left the stage".

But he added that former volunteers worked on a voluntary basis with the tribunal through Sinn Fein. "Having established the process between the tribunal and these former volunteers, Sinn Fein played no further role in the process, though our understanding is that the people involved were in a position to answer all questions about the IRA action in which the two RUC officers were killed," Mr Adams said.

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