Garda ombudsman accused of hypocrisy over failure to follow-up Garda-IRA collusion findings

The Smithwick Tribunal found that gardai colluded with the IRA in the murder of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen. Photo: Pacemaker.
The Smithwick Tribunal found that gardai colluded with the IRA in the murder of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen. Photo: Pacemaker.

UUP Justice spokesman Doug Beattie says it is “hypocritical” that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has never followed up a 2013 public inquiry which found Irish police colluded with the IRA in a double murder.

In 2013 the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin concluded that Irish police officers colluded with the IRA in the murder of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan as they returned to NI after a meeting in Dundalk Garda station in 1989.  

RUC Supt Bob Buchanan was also murdered in the same attack. Photo: PA

RUC Supt Bob Buchanan was also murdered in the same attack. Photo: PA

A spokesman for GSOC has told the News Letter that it “has not done any investigation into matters arising specifically from the Smithwick Report”.

GSOC does have a special “public interest” justification for such investigations, he said, but “in making such a decision, regard is had to whether there has been other investigations or judicial inquiries, resources available for such investigations and the practical ability of a conclusion for such investigations”.

He gave a list of other reasons GSOC was unable to investigate;-

• Judge Smithwick was not able to identify the source of the leak to the IRA
• The legislation under which GSOC is set up in 2005 only allowed it to investigate complaints if made within six months of the alleged conduct, extended to 12 months in 2015.

• The remit of GSOC does not extend to retired officers

• GSOC does not have a Historical Investigations Directorate akin to the Police Ombudsman for NI.

• GSOC only had 35-39 staff from 2010-18

He also noted that the Garda is not obliged to notify GSOC of any investigations it has carried out and so it cannot comment on any actions it might have carried out.

Asked if there is not a responsibility on GSOC to ensure that the Garda has investigated all criminal / disciplinary issues flowing coming from Smithwick, the spokesman said “it will be making no further comment”.

UUP Justice Spokesman Doug Beattie MLA responded that the legacy process in NI has been characterised by “a determination to investigate the previous actions of police officers and indeed a specific charge of ‘non criminal police misconduct’ has even been invented”. 

He added: “Given that this approach has been enthusiastically supported by the Republic of Ireland government, it is rather hypocritical to learn that there is no discernible desire to apply the same type of investigation to the Garda that they want to apply to the RUC and the PSNI. 

“We need to see a much greater commitment from Dublin to investigate crimes in Northern Ireland which originated south of the border, be it Kingsmills, IRA cross border raids or alleged Garda collusion.”