The tribunal will call as witnesses former and serving gardaí, IRA members and a protected British spy in what is set to be one of the most politically-sensitive inquiries ever conducted here.
A report by Canadian judge Peter Cory yesterday found sufficient evidence of collusion in security force intelligence documents and the testimony of British agent Kevin Fulton to warrant a full public inquiry. Justice Minister Michael McDowell said he intended it to begin in the spring.
The Cory Report found evidence of collusion between gardaí and the IRA in the murders of RUC officers chief supt Harry Breen and supt Bob Buchanan, who were ambushed in Co Armagh in 1989 as they returned from meeting gardaí in Dundalk.
Judge Cory based his conclusions on three intelligence reports and Fulton who claimed to have met a garda identified as garda B whom he knew passed information to the IRA and heard tipped the organisation off about the movements of the two officers. Gardaí always denied the claims.
Mr McDowell said he was confident the inquiry could be completed swiftly but stressed its success would depend on witness co-operation. He said it would be a litmus test for the republican movement to prove the sincerity of its calls for the truth over suspected British security force collusion in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the murders of Catholics in the North.
“I hope Sinn Féin, which is closely allied with the Provisional IRA, will use all of its influence to ensure members come forward and put into the public domain all relevant information ,” he said.
A Sinn Féin spokesman said it would urge the South Armagh IRA to co-operate with a public inquiry. “We would encourage anyone with information that would help the families of the two officers find out the truth to come forward,” he said.
Four other reports given by Judge Cory to the British government on alleged British security force collusion in the murders of solicitors, Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, Portadown man Robert Hamill and LVF leader Billy Wright remain unpublished but Mr McDowell said he had assurances from British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he would release them.
A sixth report given to the Irish Government on the IRA murders of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson in 1987 found no basis to believe gardaí colluded in their deaths.