Irish Times
14 Mar 2012

FORMER MINISTER for justice Gerry Collins has written to the Smithwick Tribunal to reject suggestions that the Garda were told not to co-operate with an RUC investigation into the Narrow Water bombing.

The bombing in August 1979 killed 18 British soldiers, causing the single biggest loss of British army lives during the Troubles. Two bombs were detonated, allegedly from the southern side of Carlingford Lough, as a convoy of soldiers, mainly of the Parachute Regiment, passed Narrow Water Castle in Co Down. A British tourist was also killed.

On Tuesday a former deputy assistant chief constable of Northern Ireland, identified only as Witness 68, said an assistant Garda commissioner by the name of McLaughlin had claimed “the taoiseach, from the outset of the inquiry, had decreed the killings were a political crime and [that] no assistance be given to the RUC”.

The taoiseach at the “outset of the inquiry” was Jack Lynch.

However, Mr Collins has taken issue with this account of events. In a letter to the tribunal, Mr Collins said he was minister for justice in Mr Lynch’s government at the time of the bombings. Mr Collins said Mr Lynch was “vehemently opposed” to the IRA campaign and had sought to ensure Garda co-operation in combating the IRA on both sides of the Border.

Mr Collins said he would be happy to be recalled by the tribunal to give evidence as to Mr Lynch’s attitude. “I have absolutely no doubt in informing you that the suggestion made by Witness 68 is completely incorrect.”

He said: “The memory and the honour of Jack Lynch deserve that someone who knew him and worked with him intimately during these troubled times should be asked to give evidence before the tribunal. I believe I am the most appropriate person.

“Although I had thought I had concluded my involvement with the tribunal, I think fairness to the memory of Jack Lynch requires that I be asked to come back to give evidence challenging that given yesterday.”