UK & World News

  • 3 December 2013, 23:04

IRA-Garda Collusion In Murders, Inquiry Finds

Two of the most senior RUC officers murdered by the IRA were ambushed following a leak from an Irish police station, a damning report has found.

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were gunned down on March 20 1989 near the border in south Armagh, shortly after a meeting with a senior gardai in Dundalk, Co Louth.

A tribunal into collusion between the Republic's Garda and the Provos has found an unidentified IRA mole leaked information about their movements on the day they were killed.

In his 500-page report, Judge Peter Smithwick found there was collusion in the killings, but did not point the finger at any individual officer or civilian.

"The tribunal has not uncovered direct evidence of collusion. There is no record of a phone call, no traceable payment, no smoking gun," he said.

"It is particularly regrettable that both police services acted swiftly to dismiss speculation of the possibility of collusion rather than to deal with that by means of a thorough and credible investigation.

"This was an example of the prioritisation of political expediency in the short term, without due regard to the rights of victims and the importance of placing justice at the centre of any policing system."

Mr Breen, 51, and Mr Buchanan, 55, travelled to Dundalk to discuss a possible joint RUC/Garda operation on lands owned by prominent republican Thomas "Slab" Murphy.

On their way home, on the Edenappa Road, near Jonesborough, just a few hundred yards over the border, a van with a gang of up to six armed IRA men cut them off.

Both policemen were in civilian clothes and neither was carrying a weapon.

Mr Buchanan tried to reverse his Vauxhall Cavalier out of danger but got stuck in a ditch and was shot several times in the driver's seat.

Mr Breen tried to surrender. He got out of the car, walked to the front of it with his hands up, and was shot several times.

Three former garda officers - Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey - were granted legal representation and all vigorously denied allegations of collusion.

Evidence shows Mr Corrigan passed information to the IRA - but it cannot be proved he colluded in Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan's murders, the tribunal found.

Mr Buchanan's son, William, spoke of his disbelief that his father was effectively set up to be murdered.

"The findings are both incredible and shocking and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station. This led to my father's death," he said.

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore apologised to Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan's families and said the country must confront the grave findings of collusion.

"I am appalled and saddened by this finding. It is a matter of grave public concern," he said.

Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said she will raise the collusion scandal with the Irish Government.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said it would be inappropriate to comment without fully examining the report.

The tribunal was established in 2005, with lawyers spending six years examining intelligence and witness statements from police, undercover agents, Provo bombers and politicians during 133 days of public hearings.