Smithwick Tribunal, Loughgall Martyrs
It has always been known that RUC officers Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan were killed in 1989 as a direct result of their involvement in the planning and summary execution of 8 PIRA Volunteers at Loughgall in 1987. It would never have been the case that an operation of this magnitude would ever be executed on the basis of information from a Garda. It was not unusual for the PIRA to know that RUC Officers were travelling back and forward in places like Monaghan, Louth, Donegal and Dublin. However, not all RUC personnel were targeted as such attacks would have caused logistical problems for the PIRA, the Irish Government would have had to strengthen border security and so forth, and that was not something that the PIRA wanted to encourage, particularly in the border areas where there was a great deal of money to be made from smuggling and so forth.
These particular RUC Officers were executed due to their direct role in the planning and execution of 8 PIRA volunteers at Loughgall, three weeks before the Loughgall executions, these two RUC officers accompanied an SAS Team to the firing range below the RUC forensic lab in Belfast. During this planned session in preparation for Loughgall, the SAS Team test fired similar weapons to those that would be used by the PIRA at Loughgall. These weapons were signed in and out in the normal fashion and so records do exist of this pre-planned shot-to-kill operation.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has been accused of handing over impenetrable, anonymous and unverified intelligence to an inquiry into Garda collusion with the IRA in the Irish Republic.
Lawyers for the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan launched a scathing attack on the force, accusing it of failing the families of the two most senior RUC officers killed in the Troubles.
As the long-running Smithwick tribunal sat for its last day, senior counsel Diarmaid McGuinness criticised PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris for claiming intelligence revealed there were several unnamed gardai colluding with the Provos.
"These strands of evidence are worthless and weightless so as to provide proof of any matter," Mr McGuinness said in his closing submissions.
"They cast the gravest shadow over bona fides, the willingness and the ability of the PSNI to co-operate with the tribunal."
The tribunal has been probing any links between gardai or Garda civilians and the Provos' ambush of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan on March 20, 1989, shortly after a meeting with a senior garda in Dundalk.
Three named former Garda officers - Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey - strongly deny any allegations of collusion.
Mr McGuinness maintained that Mr Harris told the tribunal there was no RUC intelligence at the time of the murders to suggest collusion.
Twenty-four years after their murders, and eight years in to the inquiry, the chairman was presented with what the lawyer called "an impenetrable, anonymous, unverified bunch of intelligence".
Mr McGuinness said the PSNI has refused to share the evidence in full but asked the tribunal to make a judgment on it. He said: "It beggars belief as to how you are expected to come to adjudication, not merely in relation to this evidence, but in relation to the issue of collusion as a whole, having regard of the actions of the PSNI."