Northern Ireland

Smithwick Tribunal: 'IRA had Dundalk Garda station under surveillance'

Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were murdered by the IRA in 1989
Image caption Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were murdered by the IRA in 1989

Intelligence reports received by gardai in the weeks following the murders of two senior RUC officers have been shown to the Smithwick Tribunal.

It is investigating claims of Garda collusion in the 1989 murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

They were shot dead by the IRA in south Armagh after a meeting with police in Dundalk.

The tribunal heard it was "well known" the IRA had Dundalk Garda station "regularly under surveillance".

The claim was made by retired assistant Garda commissioner Patrick O'Toole.

He declined to elaborate on the source of the intelligence information and is set to return next week to disclose futher information in closed session.

One of the intelligence reports shown to the tribunal suggested the two RUC officers killed were "accidentally sighted" on the southern side of the border by an IRA member who recognised one of the officers and alerted another IRA member.

"PIRA checked at Dundalk Garda station to confirm the officers were there", the document said.

Earlier, Mr O'Toole denied changing his evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal to "coincide" with that of a former justice minister.

In a previous statement to the tribunal, Mr O'Toole said the purpose of an immediate Garda investigation following the murders was "to investigate collusion allegations".

Intelligence document

On Friday, Mr O'Toole told the tribunal that he had since checked the terms of reference of the 1989 investigation and his statement was incorrect.

"The investigation was to establish the arrangements and circumstances of the meeting of the RUC officers at Dundalk Garda Station" he said.

When asked why he had only brought the matter to the attention of the tribunal on Friday morning, Mr O'Toole said he had looked up the terms of reference in Garda headquarters after hearing the evidence last September of Gerry Collins, the Irish Republic's justice minister at the time of the murders.

The day after the murders, Ned O'Dea, then the assistant Garda commissioner, was sent to Dundalk to conduct an enquiry.

"Immediately after Gerry Collins' evidence I spoke to Mr O'Dea as well" Mr O'Toole said.

But he said he had not discussed his evidence with Mr O'Dea, only the terms of reference.

Asked by tribunal barrister Mr Justin Dillon SC if he had spoken to any other Garda officers, Mr O'Toole also said he had spoken to retired assistant commissioners Dermot Jennings and Jim McHugh.

Asked if he was anxious to ensure his evidence "tailored with official garda evidence", Mr O'Toole replied: "Not at all, I'm anxious to tell the truth."

The tribunal also heard that a Garda intelligence document exists that outlines when it was known the two RUC officers were travelling to Dundalk Garda Station.

Mr O'Toole was also questioned about his statement to the tribunal where he said "impeccable evidence" established that no collusion was required in order for the IRA to carry out the attacks on the officers.

He said that gardai had received "numerous" reports in the days following the ambush, and "not one of them mentioned the word collusion".

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