Inquiry into RUC ‘collusion’ deaths to report

DETAILS of evidence uncovered by the Smithwick Tribunal into the alleged collusion by gardaí and other state officials in the murder of two senior RUC officers in 1989 will be revealed for the first time today.

Tribunal chairperson Judge Peter Smithwick will deliver an opening statement at the first substantive public hearing of the inquiry in Dublin this morning.

Judge Smithwick is also expected to allude to the Government’s recent, controversial decision to truncate the length of the inquiry.

Earlier this month Justice Minister Alan Shatter altered the Tribunal’s terms of reference and instructed the inquiry to provide details of its workings by the end of this month and its completed report by November 30.

Mr Shatter ordered a speeding-up of the inquiry on the basis that it has already sat in private for six year without holding any substantive oral hearings.

The tribunal, which has held two hearings in public so far, is estimated to have cost €8 million to date.

Among those to have been granted representation is alleged British double agent and former IRA member, Freddie Scappaticci, who used the code name “Stakeknife”, and British intelligence agent and IRA member, Peter Keeley, who operated as “Kevin Fulton.”

A former Garda sergeant, Finbarr Hickey, who was convicted of signing forged passport documents for the Provisional IRA 10 years ago, will also be legally represented at hearings.

Lawyers for retired Garda sergeant, Owen Corrigan, have branded accusations made under parliamentary privilege by Northern MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, that their client passed on information to the IRA as “a monstrous lie.”

The Attorney General and the Police Service of Northern Ireland has also been granted legal representation.

Judge Smithwick has reserved a decision on whether to grant legal representation to another retired garda, Leo Colton, whose conduct has also been examined by the inquiry’s legal team.

The tribunal is examining suggestions of possible collusion by gardaí in the killing of RUC officers, Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan on March 20, 1989 as they were returning from a meeting with senior gardaí in Dundalk. The two RUC officers were ambushed by the Provisional IRA near Jonesboro, Co Armagh.

The tribunal will begin hearing evidence from witnesses from Thursday. Public hearings will take place at 9-13 Blackhall Place, Dublin.

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