Irish Times
12 Mar 2012

SOME ACCOUNTS of collusion between members of the Garda and the IRA may be excluded from the Smithwick Tribunal’s final report, Judge Peter Smithwick has warned.

In an interim report sent to the clerk of the Dáil at the weekend, Judge Smithwick said he was “most concerned” that “highly relevant and potentially significant” information may have to be ignored.

He said British intelligence sources gave information orally to the tribunal in private session, but he now needed it to be put on the record in a formal context.

The judge said the information was central to the tribunal’s terms of reference, which are to inquire into allegations that members of An Garda Síochána or other employees of the State colluded with the IRA in the murders of two RUC officers in March 1989.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush in south Armagh just after leaving a meeting with a senior garda in Dundalk. They were the highest ranking members of the RUC to be killed by paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Judge Smithwick said if agreement cannot be reached to put the information before the tribunal as formal evidence, “there is nothing further the tribunal can do in relation to the matter and I will simply have to proceed to make my findings and recommendations based on the evidence that has been put before me without reference to, or inference from, the aforementioned intelligence information”.

Separately the judge expressed his disappointment that the British intelligence agent Ian Hurst, also known as Martin Ingram, has not given evidence. Because of security implications it was agreed with the British ministry of defence that he could give evidence in private session. “However Mr Hurst . . . is refusing to give evidence unless he can do so in public,” Judge Smithwick said.

The Smithwick Tribunal was set up in 2005 and public sessions began last June. Its first interim report came out on June 29th but no formal findings or recommendations have been made.

In this second interim report the judge said that, since public hearings began, publicity has encouraged additional witnesses to come forward. So far the tribunal has heard evidence from 172 witnesses, 35 of whom are resident outside the jurisdiction. There is a video link between the tribunal offices in Dublin and a “secure location” in Belfast.

The final report of the Smithwick Tribunal is expected around the end of May 2012.