Families of RUC officers may sue the State

The State could face civil lawsuits from the families of the two murdered RUC officers following the damning Smithwick Report which found gardaí colluded with the IRA in their brutal killings.

As Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was prepared to meet the families of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan to discuss the report, their solicitors told the Irish Examiner they could not rule out a claim for compensation through the Irish courts.

“Taking legal action is an option I cannot rule out and will discuss it with the Breen family at some stage. We didn’t discuss it in the past because we had no idea what would be in the final report,” said John McBurney, who represented Harry Breen’s family.

Likewise, solicitor Ernie Waterworth said he could not rule out civil action and would advise the Buchanan family in the future.

Legal sources said the unreserved apologies from the Taoiseach and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan would greatly strengthen any compensation case.

Both solicitors condemned as “appalling” remarks by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams yesterday in which he told Newstalk that the RUC men thought they were immune from attack and had “a laissez-faire disregard for their own security”.

Later he told a stunned Dáil that both the murdered RUC officers and the IRA gang were brave, and both were doing their duty.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter described Mr Adams comments as nauseating.

Mr Shatter, who has apologised over the collusion, said: “It is quite clear to me that he [Mr Adams] was trying to suggest that two respected officers of the RUC... were themselves responsible for travelling a road in the Republic in which they were assassinated and were themselves responsible for their own deaths.”

The eight-year tribunal’s 500-page report found an IRA mole in the Garda station in Dundalk tipped off an IRA hit squad that the men were attending a meeting in the town.

The tribunal accused current Garda chiefs of trying to protect the reputation of the force by undermining a retired superintendent who testified that he passed intelligence on a death threat against Mr Buchanan to the highest ranks in the force the year before the attack.

The commissioner, Martin Callinan, apologised and said: “To think that any member of my force would engage with the IRA at any level is beyond comprehension... And to betray both themselves and my organisation in such a fashion is beyond me.”

Speaking in Japan, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would meet the families to discuss the report if they felt that was appropriate.

On the tribunal’s judge finding that “loyalty is prized above honesty” in the gardaí, Mr Kenny said: “It is true that in the past we have different reflections of culture in Ireland... we are in a different space now.”

Dermot Lavery, one of the three gardaí questioned by the tribunal, rejected its findings that he had assisted the IRA by providing forged passport forms.

Former Garda sergeant Finbarr Hickey welcomed the report’s finding that he had “no hand, act or part in any collusion”.

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