Garda chief Martin Callinan says IRA collusion horrifying

Martin Callinan, Commissioner of the Irish police, said he was "horrified"

The commissioner of the Irish police has said he is "horrified" that any member of the force would have colluded with the IRA.

It follows Judge Peter Smithwick's finding that there was Irish police collusion in the murders of two senior Northern Ireland policemen in 1989.

Martin Callinan said he accepted the conclusions of the Smithwick report.

He said the force would study the report and "will learn lessons and do whatever is necessary".

Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were shot dead in an IRA ambush in March 1989 in south Armagh. The attack happened as they crossed the border into Northern Ireland after a meeting in Dundalk Garda (police) station.

The Smithwick Tribunal was set up by the Irish government in 2005 to investigate claims that officers based in Dundalk station had assisted the IRA gang who ambushed the two officers on 20 March 1989.

In the report of his inquiry published on Tuesday, Peter Smithwick said he was "satisfied there was collusion in the murders".

"It is intensely disappointing as commissioner of An Garda Síochána to learn that, on balance of probability, the tribunal has found that people in my organisation betrayed us," Mr Callinan said.

Enda Kenny called the Smithwick report findings 'shocking'

"I am horrified that any member of the Garda Síochána would be involved in colluding with the IRA."

He said the report required very serious consideration "and that is what I'll be doing in the next few weeks".

Mr Callinan added that it should be remembered that members of the Garda had put their lives on the line in combating the IRA.

Earlier, Irish prime minister Enda Kenny said the findings of the Smithwick inquiry were "absolutely shocking".

Speaking from Japan, Mr Kenny said it was a revelation of another dark patch in Ireland's recent history.

He endorsed his justice minister's apology to the victims' families and said he hoped to meet them.

'Damning report'
Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered by the IRA in March 1989

Meanwhile, the justice ministers and chief constables from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are to meet in the wake of the publication of the Smithwick Tribunal.

The Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford called the report "damning".

But he said that he and the Irish Justice Minister would continue their "exceptionally good cooperation".

During the inquiry, suspicions fell on three gardaí. They denied leaking information to the IRA.

Mr Ford and Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter are expected to meet on the fringes of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels on Friday, 6 December.

A meeting between the justice ministers, the PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott and Mr Callinan will take place in the coming weeks.

"We are determined we will continue the exceptionally good cooperation which currently exists between our departments, between an Garda Síochána and the PSNI and we will ensure that there is a joint approach as we fight organised crime and terrorism together," Mr Ford said.

Key findings

  • Collusion: Peter Smithwick said that while there had been no "smoking gun" he was "satisfied" that there had been collusion by one or more Garda officers in the murders
  • Former garda sergeant Owen Corrigan: "I also find that what may have started out as a professional relationship with subversives for the legitimate purpose of intelligence-gathering ultimately developed into a relationship of an inappropriate nature"
  • Earlier investigations: O'Dea and Camon investigations were "inadequate"
  • Missed opportunity: "The best opportunity of establishing the truth of the matter arose in the days and weeks following the ambush. In these circumstances, 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"
  • Culture: "The culture of failing adequately to address suggestions of wrongdoing, either for reasons of expediency or by virtue of misguided loyalty, has been a feature of life in this state"

The DUP's Arlene Foster said the Irish government must do more to acknowledge its failures in preventing terrorism.

'Wrongdoing'

"Judge Smithwick poses a serious challenge to the Irish government that it must tackle the culture of failing adequately to address suggestions of wrongdoing from within that state," she said.

"All too often, we have seen the Irish government call for investigations into events in Northern Ireland, but take grave offence at suggestions of wrongdoing from within their state."

Following the publication of the report on Tuesday, two Irish cabinet minsters apologised on behalf of the state for the failings outlined in the tribunal's report.

Deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore said he was "appalled and saddened" by the finding. Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter apologised unreservedly to the Breen and Buchanan families for the state's failings.

The PSNI said its investigation was still open and it would take time to study the Smithwick report in detail. The head of the Irish police, Commissioner Martin Callinan, said his senior officers would also examine the findings carefully.

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