Irish Times

16 May 2012

TWO MEMBERS of a 1989 IRA ambush team that killed two senior RUC officers were yesterday named as well-known Dundalk republican Patrick “Mooch” Blair, and a man identified as Leonard “Hard Bap” Hardy.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were shot dead in south Armagh on March 20th, 1989.

The officers were killed as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station. The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating suggestions that Garda members based in Dundalk may have alerted the IRA to the presence of the RUC men in Dundalk that day.

Examining a range of documents, intelligence reports and summaries of intelligence reports supplied to it by the PSNI, the tribunal was told by Justin Dillon SC, that one precis of an intelligence document dated March 1989, the same month as the ambush, named Mr Blair and Mr Hardy as being part of the ambush team.

The documents also contained copies of briefing notes for former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and northern secretary Tom King, which were prepared within hours of the murders.

The notes encouraged the then prime minister and secretary of state to set the killings in the context of the wider sectarian murders that were happening that year. This was because “the impression should not be given that we are only really concerned about murders of the British security services”, the notes explained.

But the notes cautioned that questions relating to allegations of collusion should be met with the answer that speculation “plays the terrorists’ game”. The material stressed there was “no shred of evidence to support these allegations, which are extremely dangerous”.

The prime minister, in particularly, was urged to “avoid fuelling dangerous rumours” by responding to such speculation.

The documents were prepared for the politicians to use in anticipation of the issue being raised in the House of Commons.