Smithwick Tribunal: Former Provisional IRA leaders met Tribunal’s legal team “in recent weeks”

The BBC reports that, at today’s public hearing, the Smithwick Tribunal was told that its legal team had held “a face-to face meeting with three former members of the Provisional IRA in recent weeks.”  From the BBC report

It was told the three former IRA leaders, one of whom had a command role in the attack, had met the tribunal.

Their evidence will be presented to the inquiry shortly.

The tribunal was told the IRA members gave detailed accounts and replied to questions from the inquiry team.

The two police officers were shot dead after a meeting at Dundalk Garda station.

On Tuesday, it emerged that Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan had been returning from a meeting with Irish police to discuss the the possibility of launching a joint operation on lands owned by Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, regarded as the most senior republican at that time in south Armagh.

The details, which have yet to be heard, were submitted in a written statement from the counsel to the inquiry.

That’s 5 years after a request for such a meeting was made to the Sinn Féin leadership.  And, as the BBC report notes, 2 years after Ireland’s attorney general confirmed that information given by potential witnesses “cannot be used in a future prosecution and any witnesses would be given immunity”.

According to the Louth TD, and Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin facilitated this process because of our commitment to assisting bereaved families if and when we can. This may not be possible in all cases.


Mr Adams also said

The closure which victims, victim’s families and survivors deserve, demands that those who contributed to the conflict have to pledge ourselves to tell and to listen to the truth about the past.

Which, for some reason, reminds me of the comments of US Ambassador to Ireland, James Kenny, on one of Mr Adams’ previous statements

Gerry Adams was branded “absurd” and “disingenuous” by the top US diplomat in Ireland, leaked cables reveal.

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  • HeinzGuderian

    I can tell you now what the outcome of the Tribunal will be.
    I think we all know what it will be.
    Didn’t David Ervine say there was no collusion in the Dublin Monaghan bombing ?

    As for adams,well,we all know the guy suffers from selective memory syndrome !!

  • Limerick

    The question to be asked here is what has motivated the Provos to give evidence to this tribunal?

    Call me cynical, but I’m betting that it will be to try and present a case for a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Forum’ on the basis that they have been shown to co-operate when asked. Or simply because they have been presented with an opportunity to trash the reputations of the two police officers involved. Perhaps even a combination of the two.

    I genuinely laughed out loud at the suggestion by a radio commentator on Evening Extra that they might have been taking the opportunity to apologise for what they had done in order to ‘move things forward’.

  • sonofstrongbow

    On-the-run ira murderers meet with Dublin government officials and then disappear into the celtic mist. Just like the good old days.

  • Cynic2

    And just how far did the Tribunal seriously think this would take them? So everyone else gives evidence in the hearing while a few alleged PIRA murderers give evidence in secret on a bog road somewhere.

    Now given any admissions they made, were the Garda informed immediately. Has the investigation been reopened?

    Sorry but what sort of Tribunal does this? I just don’t trust it any more and dont trust that the Irish Government has any intention that it will find the truth. Sad but that’s where it is.

  • carl marks

    Looking at the three posts above their typical of the attitude of a certain type of unionist e.g. whatever the republican movement do is a cunning plot, a bunch of lies or a calculated insult to the unionist people.
    With no evidence offered we are informed
    We already know the results
    That it’s an attempt to trash the good names of the two officers who were murdered
    And the ira who met the tribunal were on the run
    The three of you left out the smell of sulphur and the roasted baby they served up for lunch
    Of course if the ira had not met with the inquiry team that according to the above contributors would have been proof that they only have contempt for truth and reconciliation
    Grow up boys

  • Has Gerry Adams let down his guard, did anyone else hear his interview on BBC radio today saying “we wanted to cooperate” referring to the cooperation of the IRA in the Breen Enquiry in Dublin

    Sorry had not seen this thread and added these comments on another thread.

    He clearly and definitively said “WE” wanted to cooperate when being interviewed on radio Ulster regarding the IRA participation and cooperation with this enquiry

    if he was not past or present in the IRA I am sure he would have said “they” wanted to cooperate

  • carl marks

    Sorry cynic your post appeared just as I was sending mine I imagine that they the ira men will get treated the same way the paras who murdered the people in bloody Sunday got treated subjected to the full force of the law and sent to jail for gunning down people who could not defend themselves., no wait that didn’t happen the paras didn’t even get their pensions taken off them

  • Turgon

    carl marks is correct to raise the Saville Enquiry. Irritating as its length was it was given as long as it needed; there was very little even no governmental interference. The soldiers were required to give evidence and were cross examined. That was in London and the identities were concealed but they were still held accountable. Incidentally as I blogged at the time I agree with prosecutions if appropriate.

    Contrast all the above with the Smithwick tribunal: time limited; political interference to time limit it. In terms of the IRA the tribunal seems to have seen fit to allow these terrorists to give evidence on their own terms and without the possibility of cross examination and have granted immunity from prosecution.

    Had they not done so the IRA members might well not have given evidence but then their refusal would have been clear for all to see.

    In view of the way this tribunal has allowed the IRA to behave why should they fear any “Truth” Forum: if it ran like this tribunal, they could tell their quarter or less truths with no possibility of any form of challenge.

  • tacapall


    “I just don’t trust it any more and dont trust that the Irish Government has any intention that it will find the truth. Sad but that’s where it is”.

    Yeah we know the feeling. If it came out with findings like this would it be ok for you.

  • ranger1640

    If I heard the report on the news correct. The three IRA members that contacted the inquiry, were assured that their testimony (can’t say evidence yet) would not be used in any prosecution. It was also reported that they were leading IRA members. Not the actual IRA members who were involved in the ambush and murder.

  • carl marks

    im amazed im in agreement with turgon on all his points with just a addition i dont think the ira are the only ones afraid of a truth commision, thers a lot of politicins and civil servants on both sides of the border and the irish sea who would worry

  • sonofstrongbow

    Does the murder gang do pensions? I thought they demanded the taxpayer fund ‘retired’ terrorists by paying them a salary as ‘government’ appointees.Now these particular South Armagh murderers are on-the-runs as no one has been made amenable for the police officers’ murders. Whatever game they are playing, and it is a game, it ain’t about truth or justice.

    By the way whatever happened to the provo “‘honour code” as relied on by Marty during Saville? Perhaps that only applies in public?

    I’m certainly a unionist, and I’m certain that I’m happy to be so. I’m also certain being identified as such by certain types of commentator makes me certainly very happy.

  • carl marks

    im glad your so certain about being certain,
    i thought being on the run meant the police had you name as wanted for something and you were running from them but since your such a certain type of person im sure your certain that the police certainly know who these people are and are certainly looking for them in a certain manner

  • Cynic2

    Carl and tacapall

    The Inquiry seems to have compromised itself. There is now a hierarchy of witnesses never mind victims. Those who will give evidence on condition they do so in private without any awkward questions in cross examination and those who do so in public.

    And I am amazed that Gerry managed to set this up given that he’s never been in the IRA and knows nothing about it

    Still I am delighted tacapaul to see that you support this type of approach and assume that you wont be too unhappy then if there’s no inquiry into Finucane.

  • carl marks

    Does the murder gangs do pensions?”

    if your a paratrooper who joins in the slaughter of innoncent people they do

  • sonofstrongbow

    I don’t own “a paratrooper”.

  • carl marks

    I don’t own “a paratrooper”.

    never suggested you did but you should get one they make great pets

  • carl marks

    sorry slugger just couldnt resist it

  • Mark

    Toby Harndon has already given his evidence in the form of his book – Bandit Country . The general consensus at the time was that Harndon had managed to talk to people from the area who didn’t normally do interviews .

  • Limerick

    “Looking at the three posts above their typical of the attitude of a certain type of unionist e.g. whatever the republican movement do is a cunning plot, a bunch of lies or a calculated insult to the unionist people.”


    Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the Provos will explain how they were informed by the Garda that two very senior policemen were attending Dundalk Garda station and would be returning to Newry that very day. Perhaps they will explain how they ambushed two unarmed men and gunned them down in cold blood. Perhaps they will apologise for their crimes and beg the forgiveness of the grieving families.

    I genuinely look forward to being corrected.

  • Zig70

    I don’t think the general public see any value in tribunals. Nobody gets brought to book, no new truths are revealed. Most people probably suspect some collusion occurred but no doubt the result will be that the collusion was not systemic, that it was one or two bad apples and nobody will be fingered. It’s just being seen to do something. At least we aren’t paying for this one.

  • Turgon

    You touch on one of the most important distinctions in the approach to the past by republicans.

    We all know that they regarded those two unarmed RUC officers as “combatants” and “legitimate targets” and as essentially enemy soldiers in a war. We also know that they do not regret and will not condemn nor ask forgiveness for the murder of those men. They may mouth some sort of comment to the effect that they are sad they “had” to kill the policemen but in the context of the time the policemen were the enemy: it was a war etc. etc. and in no way do they regard killing two unarmed middle aged policemen as murder. Then they will suggest that the IRA admitting that they killed Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan is all the explanation which is relevant or necessary.

    The above contrasts completely to the republican approach when their “soldiers” died. Then they assert that police or the army murdered the IRA men; that the IRA men should have been arrested no matter what the danger to the police or army or civilians was. Furthermore they will deny or minimise that danger. Then they will demand withering detail on all aspects of the deaths of the IRA men and no matter what information is given will demand more and claim that the lack of evidence of collusion is evidence of a cover up of collusion and the evidence of terrorists having guns was planted etc. etc.

    At times so tiring does refuting these lies from republicans become that many unionists give up refuting the nonsense. That, however, is a mistake as, by the continuous incremental repeating of these lies, republicans are trying to rewrite the history of what happened here. Our answer to that must be “Never, Never, Never, never.”

  • Cynic2

    All this hot air (and yellow carding ) is, for me, taking away from the issue. Perhaps that is the intention in some quarters.

    The Tribunal seems to have had its eye wiped. At the very least its public handling of this has been cack handed, though its not clear if the meeting was leaked by the Tribunal or SF desperate to distract from the McArdle debacle and regain control of the news agenda.

    If I were the families I would be asking for an explanation and if it didn’t satisfy me I would be withdrawing on the basis that its no longer a far and impartial inquiry where all witnesses were treated equally and open to cross examination.

    If the Tribunal collapses that will then put the Irish State in breach of Article 2 of the Human Rights Act. No-one wants to see that and the families don’t deserve it. This needs sorted quickly

  • carl marks

    limerick what the republicians say we might never know but whatever they do some people will never accept it in good faith.This is a problem as they can go to the core vote and say “see we tried and look what they said about us” this enquiry like al others will produce no worthwhile result until all partys tell the whole truth and open all files, the southern goverment has questions to answer as does the garda ( i do not assume guilt) also the ruc must explain why these two high ranking police men were travelling in a soft skinned car in such a tricky area and it should also be noted that the garda were not the only police force that knew the travel arangments of the officers involved.
    cynic i think that the yellow carding was because at least in my case i as having a slagging with sos (i thought it was funny maybe i should have put boom boom at the end) and getting of the point of the post as you suggest but not on purpose as you imply. as to all the witness being treated fairly i dont know of a inquiry yet that has managed that on

  • lamhdearg

    Was it common for ruc men to go south of the border for such meetings. surely it would have been a better idea iF the guards had crossed over into the north. If it was not common was it a set up from the top (Eire side) or a F*** up from the ruc.

  • Mark

    What happens if/when the HET come knocking on the door . How will the Attorney General’s promise of immunity apply to any future HET investigation . The BBC reports that one of the leaders interviewed had a command role in the operation so it would stand to reason that the HET would like a word with him or her .

    Have Sinn Fein just covered all the bases ?

  • tacapall

    “The BBC reports that one of the leaders interviewed had a command role in the operation so it would stand to reason that the HET would like a word with him or her”

    Thats correct, his name is Freddie Scappaticci

  • Cynic2


    You seem a bit hung up on Freddie. Something in your childhood was it? never learned that the bogeyman isn’t real?

  • tacapall


    “ALLEGED BRITISH agent and senior IRA figure Freddie Scappaticci has been granted legal representation at the Smithwick tribunal of inquiry into the murder of two RUC officers in 1989.

    Legal representatives of Margaret Keeley, former wife of former British agent Peter Keeley, who uses the name “Kevin Fulton”, sought permission to have a “watching brief” at the tribunal”.

    Judge Smithwick said Ms Keeley’s legal team could attend any public session, but they would not be entitled to tribunal documentation.

    Her former husband has already been given full legal representation at an earlier hearing”.

    There you go, two British Agents and do ya think they might be two of these people,

    ” It was told the three former IRA leaders, one of whom had a command role in the attack, had met the tribunal”.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “Has Gerry Adams let down his guard, did anyone else hear his interview on BBC radio today saying “we wanted to cooperate” referring to the cooperation of the IRA in the Breen Enquiry in Dublin”

    You are a little late to the show. Recall from much earlier, Big Gerry’s initial response to the Jean McConville matter, to wit, “I was in jail at the time”. If he wasn’t in the PIRA, what would his being in jail have to do with anything? The implication of “I was in jail at the time” is that I couldn’t have had a hand in her death as I was in jail at the time. Which would only matter if…

  • PaulT

    Been a lot of chat recently on legal issues. I note Smithwick’s terms of ref include

    Interpretation of Terms of Reference

    “9. The Tribunal’s Terms of Reference are to enquire into suggestions that members of the Garda Síochána or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Buchanan on the 20th March 1989. The Sole member, in his opening statement delivered on the 3rd March 2006, gave an interpretation of “collusion” in the following terms;-

    “While (collusion) generally means the commission of an act, I am also of the view that it should be considered in terms of an omission or failure to act. In the active sense, collusion has amongst its meanings to conspire, connive or collaborate. In addition I intend to examine whether anybody deliberately ignored a matter, or turned a blind eye to it, or to have pretended ignorance or unawareness of something one ought morally, legally or officially oppose.”

    I’m guessing HMG’s terms of ref have never gone anywhere near this.

    However, I wonder if Smithwick’s definition of ‘collusion’ would be enforcable in an Irish court and therefore a means for the victims of Bloody Sunday, Rosemary Nelson etc to haul HMG/BA/RUC into a Dublin court (the victims are largely viewed as Irish citizens)

    I must say, I largely agree with this definition, and I think makes this the most victim ‘friendly’ tribunal/inquiry to happen on the island to date.

    Personally, given the terms of ref, I wouldn’t be surprised if the tribunal returned an opinion of collusion, if they do, and the Irish gov charge ex or serving gardai it’ll look quite bad for others

    For those comparing it to the Saville disappointment, its duration was due in no small part to the amount of time taken in trying to get HMG, BA and civil servants to co-operate.

  • Alias

    The Tribunal’s jurisdiction covers Ireland, not the seperate jurisdiction of Northern Ireland. Therefore, it cannot compel parties outside of its jurisdiction to comply with its orders. As citizens and residents of the United Kingdom, the members of PIRA within that jurisdiction enjoy the protection of it.

    The Tribunal could, of course, refer a refusal to comply by those parties outside of the jurisdiction to the clerk of the Dail for further action, but a EAW wouldn’t be an outcome of it.

    The fact remains that the Tribunal cannot compel foreigners outside of the State to attend or make statements, so if it wants said foreigners’ co-operation then it must secure it voluntarily, with all of the inevitable delays and qualifications that that process has involved.

    Since two seperate States and one very specific allegation against an individual are involved, it might have been better to have time-limited this investigation from the start of it. It was right, however, to have an inquiry external from the Gardai since far too many of their top-level members are compromised by foreign intellgence agencies (an area where the Irish State has no intention of ever investigating).

  • Alias

    Incidentally, the conclusion of this Tribunal will be that the allegation against the detective is totally unfounded. Given that his record of condemning collusion by the British State and its loyalist murder gangs is exemplary and that the only collaborating evidence would be from members of ‘republican’ murder gangs (utterly worthless if produced – which it won’t be), it will be held that the allegation was malicious and retalitory.

  • Trapattoni

    Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the Provos will explain how they were informed by the Garda that two very senior policemen were attending Dundalk Garda station and would be returning to Newry that very day.

    Limerick, have you approached the Tribunal’s legal team? The information you seem to have would be very valuable.

  • Limerick


    A very appropriate Italian sounding name btw. The information mentioned has been in the public domain for years.

  • Trapattoni


    speculation and information are two very very different things.

  • Limerick


    You weren’t aware that those were the allegations that the tribunal was set up to investigate? What useful information do you think the Provos might have been giving btw? Information that incriminated them and their friends, or information that glorified their actions?

    I’ve never known them to do anything other than the latter. As has already been pointed out they have been excused the trauma of a public cross examination.