TIM O’BRIEN
Irish Times
18 Apr 2012

THE SMITHWICK tribunal is expected to continue to close the doors to the media and the public and hear in camera evidence from British intelligence agent Ian Hurst, also known as Martin Ingram, today.

At the resumption of tribunal hearings following the Easter break yesterday, Mary Laverty SC, for the tribunal, applied to Judge Peter Smithwick for an order to exclude press and public.

Ms Laverty said this was necessary because of the potential threat to “life and limb” of those who might be identified or exposed during Mr Hurst’s evidence.

The Smithwick tribunal is inquiring into allegations that members of the Garda colluded with the IRA in the murder of two senior RUC officers in March 1989.

The tribunal has previously been told that senior RUC and British intelligence officers had expressed concern about members of the Garda in Dundalk.

Ms Laverty said Mr Hurst had a career with British army intelligence between 1980 to 1991, three years of which were spent with the army’s Force Research Unit.

She told Judge Smithwick that the Force Research Unit was a “core unit” in the British army and was involved in “the recruiting, developing and controlling of the army’s human intelligence assets”.

The unit was later renamed the Joint Services Group.

Mr Hurst has already made a statement to the tribunal based on information he acquired during his time as an intelligence agent.

However, Ms Laverty said that, in line with previous sensitive evidence, there was a danger to those who might be identified, “a concern to either life or limb or indeed to State security”.

She therefore wished to apply for an order to exclude members of the public.

Ms Laverty said she noted the presence of “a legal representative of the MoD [ministry of defence] in London”, Lieut Col Paul Hockley, who she said was there to assist Judge Smithwick in identifying matters which may be sensitive.

The judge said he proposed to grant the order to exclude members of the public, with the exception of Lieut Col Hockley, who he welcomed and who, he said, would be of great assistance in assessing which parts of the transcript may need to be redacted before publication.

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