17 Apr 2012

The press and public have been excluded from a Dublin tribunal while it hears evidence from a former British Army intelligence agent.

Ian Hurst, also known as Martin Ingram, is giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal, which is investigating the IRA murders of two RUC officers.

Senior counsel for the tribunal, Mary Laverty, said the move was necessary to protect “life, limb or state security”.

A redacted transcript of the evidence will be made public at a later date.

The tribunal was established in 2005 to investigate allegations of Irish state collusion in the murders of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Robert Buchanan.

The police officers were shot dead in an IRA ambush near the County Armagh border as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station.

‘Sensitive nature’

Ms Laverty said Mr Hurst was a member of FRU, the force research unit, “a British Army core unit in Northen Ireland, recruiting, developing and controlling army human intelligence assets”.

He spent three years in the intelligence unit from 1980 to 1991.

The unit was later renamed the Joint Services Group.

She said Mr Hurst had given a statement to the tribunal based on information he acquired during the course of his work as an intelligence agent.

She added that due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence, a private session was necessary to enable the witness to give evidence freely and for a free cross-examination to take place.

Ms Laverty also noted the presence of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hockley, senior legal adviser for the Ministry of Defence, who is attending to offer assistance to the tribunal.

Judge Peter Smithwick said he would refer to Lt Col Hockley as to what redactions may be necessary, but that he would make the deletions needed “to protect people’s lives”.