SAOIRSE32
Ní neart go cur le chéile
Recent Entries 
4th-Dec-2013 07:45 am - Link to Loughgall ambush sealed RUC officer’s fate
Policeman appeared on TV displaying captured IRA weapons after SAS operation

Irish Times
4 Dec 2013



Judge Peter Smithwick said: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen [above] was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”

The fate of Chief Supt Harry Breen, the most senior RUC officer to be killed in the Troubles, was sealed the day he appeared on television displaying the IRA weapons recovered after the SAS ambush at Loughgall that killed eight IRA members and an innocent civilian.

That was the implicit finding of Judge Peter Smithwick in his monumental 1,652-page report into the murders of Chief Supt Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in an ambush just north of the Border near Jonesborough in south Armagh on the afternoon of March 20th, 1989.

‘Classic IRA operation’

Three IRA members previously and privately in a statement and without the benefit of cross-examination informed Judge Smithwick’s tribunal that the killings were a “classic IRA operation” that involved “no help from anyone at all”.

Judge Smithwick made clear yesterday he did not believe them. His inquiry did not uncover “direct evidence of collusion” but found that one or more unidentified members of the gardaí operating in Dundalk did collude with the IRA, providing information that helped lead to the deaths of the two policemen.

But Chief Supt Breen was the chief target, Judge Smithwick appeared certain. Between August 1988 and the time of the ambush in March the following year Supt Buchanan had travelled on business to Dundalk station 20 or 21 times and was not targeted by the IRA. The judge could only identify one of those occasions – in February 1989 – in which Chief Supt Breen was with him.

Based on his “pattern of travel” IRA members could have tried to kill Supt Buchanan several times but it was Chief Supt Breen they wanted.

‘Target of this operation’

Referring to March 20th, Judge Smithwick reported: “Either the IRA did have an extraordinary piece of good fortune, or Harry Breen was the target of this operation. I believe that the evidence points to the latter conclusion.”

His central findings kept coming back to Loughgall. He believed “that the vast majority of the evidence suggests that the intention was to abduct and interrogate these officers”.

“In the latter respect, the evidence keeps pointing back to the desire of the IRA to acquire information as to how the British security services had gotten advance warning of the IRA ambush on Loughgall police station in May 1987,” he reported.

An IRA informant is almost certain to have tipped off the RUC or MI5 or British army intelligence about the planned Loughgall attack. That led to the IRA’s single worst loss of life when eight men were killed by the waiting SAS, with an innocent man also killed in the relentless gunfire. Judge Smithwick was of the view that the IRA wanted to interrogate Chief Supt Breen to establish the identity of that informant or possibly informants.

The evidence to the tribunal indicates that the IRA may also have had revenge on its mind. In a written statement to the tribunal in February three anonymous IRA members said the “instructions to the ASU [active service unit] were to intercept the car and arrest the occupants, but if that was not possible then they were to ensure that neither occupant escaped”.

The IRA said the two unarmed officers “died instantly in gunfire”. That account did not quite tally with eyewitness evidence given to the tribunal last year. A scrapyard worker who saw the incident described the gunmen letting out “a big roar like a hurrah” as they left the scene, while a schoolteacher said Chief Supt Breen tried to surrender but he was gunned down. She said he “put his hands up and they shot him”.

Chief Supt Breen went on television after Loughgall displaying the IRA weapons recovered from the scene. The IRA said he was so “very well known that this image was etched on every republican’s mind”. June Breen, the officer’s widow, in a statement told the tribunal she felt it was wrong that he had been asked by his superiors to display the weapons as it exposed him to additional danger.

She recalled how on the morning of his death she was ill in bed and that her husband told her were it not for the fact his deputy was off he would stay at home to mind her.

Two officers came to her door

That evening she remembered preparing chops for their dinner and later how two officers came to her door to say he was dead.

“It was very hard to take at the time and sometimes remains so,” she said. Ms Breen also told how her husband had instructed that were he to be killed, the then RUC chief superintendent Sir John Hermon should not attend his funeral. She did not say why. That was the sad human dimension to the killings.

In terms of fallout it seems unlikely that there will be a major negative political dimension to the Smithwick report.

The judge found there was Garda collusion but that it was localised and, it seems, at a low-ranking level. Such corruption is hard to come to terms with, but will hardly damage British-Irish or North-South relations.
4th-Dec-2013 05:43 am - Smithwick finds 'gardaí tipped off IRA'
:::u.tv:::
3 Dec 2013
**Video onsite



Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered in 1989

The IRA were tipped off by gardaí with information which proved vital in the plot to murder the two most senior policemen to die during the Troubles, the Smithwick tribunal into allegations of collusion has found.

RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were gunned down on their way home from a high-level meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in 1989.

Questions have long been posed over how the IRA knew enough about their movements to carry out such a detailed plan with deadly accuracy.

Decades later, and after an intensive eight-year investigation led by Judge Peter Smithwick, a damning conclusion has been reached - that there was collusion in the case.

Robert Buchanan's son William expressed appreciation on behalf of his family for the "diligence and integrity" of the investigation.

"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.

Judge Smithwick was tasked with finding answers, however unpalatable, and was scathing of the state for what he feels was putting itself and political expediency over the pursuit of the truth.

"This tribunal has sought to establish the truth and, in so doing, I hope that it has contributed one small part in changing the culture."

--Judge Peter Smithwick


Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan were ambushed by IRA men posing as an Army patrol on the Edenappa Road, in what was known as the 'bandit country' of south Armagh, on 20 March 1989.

Having travelled to meet with gardaí in Dundalk, they were unarmed as they were not allowed to carry their weapons over the Irish border.

The attack on the two men was planned to such a degree that their vehicle was directed to a specific spot, out of sight of a watchtower, before they were gunned down.

Robert Buchanan, a father of two, was already dead when he was shot again in the head.

Harry Breen, also a father of two, was badly wounded and waved a white hankie as he pleaded for mercy from the gunmen. None was shown.

They shot him dead at close range.

The two officers would have been targets for the IRA, as they had been assigned to a joint RUC and An Garda effort to cut off their funding by smashing the huge smuggling operation in south Armagh.

An Garda Siochána had refuted allegations that there was a mole within the force, while the IRA denied having been privy to insider information.

The intelligence picture seemed to tell a different story though, with conversations recorded by the PSNI during an investigation into dissident republican activity containing claims by former IRA members that gardaí had passed information to the Provisionals.

"On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I apologise without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies."

--Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore


The Smithwick report was handed to the clerk of the Dáil last Friday and then copies were given to the victims' families on Monday night, with the findings finally made public on Tuesday evening.

Irish Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was "appalled and saddened" by the findings and apologised without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families.

"Their murder deprived June Breen and Catherine Buchanan of their husbands, and Gillian and George Breen and Heather and William Buchanan of devoted fathers," he said.

I know that members of An Garda Síochána will be shocked by these findings today.

"The actions documented in this report are a betrayal of the values and the very ethos of an Garda Síochána, as the guardians of peace."

Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter also apologised.

"Even with the passage of 24 years and the positive developments which have taken place on the island since, our condemnation of their murder should be as strong today as it was then," he said.

His counterpart in Northern Ireland, David Ford, told UTV: "I don't think you can say because of the possibility that one or two officers sometime in the past were corrupt, that it's a tarnished force.

"I think what we can say is that it contains human beings, and things sometimes go wrong with individuals.

"But with what I see when I meet members of the gardai, I believe that they are providing a good service for the people of the Republic of Ireland - and also across the border, in terms of cooperation with the PSNI."

A statement from the Garda Commissioner welcomed the Smithwick report.

It said: "Given the serious matters under examination by the Tribunal, the report, conclusions and recommendations will now need to be carefully examined by the Garda Commissioner and his senior officers and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

Meanwhile the PSNI said it will "take time to study the content of the report in detail".

A spokesman continued: "The murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan are still open.

"PSNI has fully engaged with and supported the Smithwick Tribunal and any new evidence that comes to light as a result will be fully considered and assessed."

--PSNI


"We would once again express our sympathy to the families of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan and appeal to anyone with information to contact police."

The Superintendents' Association of Northern Ireland added: "Without doubt, the conclusions of this report will make stark and challenging reading for many people and whilst we recognise this step towards bringing out the truth in relation to these tragic and horrendous murders, what is now important for us is to see how these findings are acted upon."

Politicians have also given their reactions to the findings.

Speaking to UTV, Gregory Campbell of the DUP said: "The initial reading of this report does appear to be explosive. But many people will say this only confirms what many of us knew."

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: "People will make up their own minds on this when they read the report. Sinn Féin supported these inquires on the basis that families had the right to full disclosure of all relevant information.

"What Justice Smithwick describes as collusion is very different in form and scale from the collusion that occurred in the north. Sinn Féin believes that there needs to be an effective truth process for dealing with all legacy issues."

Dolores Kelly of the SDLP said: "The Smithwick Tribunal took an independent and fearless approach and this should be a measure of how to deal with the past. Judge Smithwick, through a trying process and painstaking work has gotten to the bottom of this tragedy."

Tom Elliott of the UUP said: "The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs said in a recent speech in Cambridge that the Irish Government had to address the perception among unionists that successive Irish governments did not do enough to stop the IRA.

"Judge Smithwick's confirmation that it is more than a perception will require the Taoiseach to take the next step to address unionist concerns."

Naomi Long of Alliance said: "I welcome the unequivocal apology from Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, as an important step in acknowledging the Irish State's role in these events. Clearly, all concerned will need to take time to reflect on the full findings of the report."

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: "The report raises some serious concerns which I will need to consider in detail and discuss with the Irish Government.

"An important point to remember is that levels of cooperation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI are now at unprecedented levels and are playing a crucial part in combating terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland.
This page was loaded Sep 23rd 2017, 11:43 pm GMT.