“I cannot get out of my mind the image of one of those men who, when injured outside his car and waving his white handkerchief, was shot dead in the head by an IRA activist. This is what we are dealing with here.”
He said it was not a day for self-justification by anybody or any party. It was not a day for muddying the waters, pulling the Smithwick Report apart or for the rewriting of history.
He said he wanted to apologise on the Dáil record to the families, saying he was appalled and saddened by the findings of the Mr Justice Smithwick’s report.
Speaking during leader’s questions, the Tánaiste offered an unreserved apology to the families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies.
Mr Gilmore said he knew members of the Garda would view the actions documented in the Smithwick report as a betrayal of the values they uphold and of the very ethos of gardaí as guardians of the peace.
He said it was a day that he also thought of the gardaí who gave their lives in the course of duty.
Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin launched a scathing attack on Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who had told Newstalk that the RUC officers had a “laissez-faire” disregard for their own safety.
He described the remarks as insulting to the families as it almost blamed the two men for their own deaths. He said Sinn Féin refused to accept it was premeditated murder and compared their approach to the deaths to that of the discredited 1972 Widgery investigation into Bloody Sunday.
“Deputy Adams should apologise to the families on behalf of the so-called republican movement, as this kind of language and Sinn Féin-speak, to which we are now becoming accustomed, represents their ongoing Widgery approach to whitewashing their past atrocities,” he said.
Mr Adams caused widespread anger in the Dáil when he described both the murdered RUC officers and their IRA killers as brave.
“I have already said they were brave officers doing their duty, as they saw it, in the same way as the IRA volunteers saw themselves as doing their duty, as they saw it,” he said.
It provoked a number of interruptions, with Labour’s Eric Byrne stating “One was legal and the other was illegal”, while Fine Gael’s Dinny McGinley asked “Was Gerry Adams ever in the IRA?”
Mr Adams dismissed the remarks, citing long-held republican grievances that the Government did not intervene in the North when the Troubles first emerged.
“Some people want to keep fighting the war. Some people who stood idly by and abandoned the people of the North want to keep fighting the war for petty, opportunistic political advantage,” he claimed.
However, the Tánaiste said he did not think he did himself, his party, or the peace process any service by his remarks.