Statement of Niall Collins TD, Spokesperson on Justice Dáil Statements on the Smithwick Tribunal

Published on: 24 October 2012

The murder of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan in March 1989 by the Provisional IRA was one of the very many cowardly murders carried out by the Provisionals on the border at that time. This was the same organisation that murdered a young couple, Robert and Maureen Hanna and their 7 year old son as they were returning from a family holiday. It was also the organisation that murdered Tom Oliver, a respected farmer from the Cooley Peninsula.
In 2001 at the Weston Park talks the Irish and British governments agreed that a number of controversial killings, where there were suggestions of collusion by the security forces, would be considered for investigation. The vast majority of these occurred in Northern Ireland, particularly the shameful murder of the Solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989. The governments agreed that these murders would be reviewed by retired Canadian Judge Cory. He recommended that there should be inquiries into the murder of Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and others because of suspected collusion by Northern Security Forces. He also recommended that there should be a public inquiry into the murders of Breen and Buchanan.
With allegations of collusion no more serious a charge could be made against the Garda Siochana.
It is regretful that, to date, no proper public inquiry has been initiated by the British government in respect of the murder of Pat Finucane.
The Smithwick Tribunal has been carrying out work on behalf of this Oireachtas since 2005. It has carried out a significant amount of work to date and has heard evidence from approximately two hundred witnesses. Everyone in this House is obviously anxious that the Tribunal concludes its work as quickly as possible. Although other Tribunals may have gone on for more than ten years, it is not acceptable that a Tribunal should take that length of time.
Nonetheless, part of the reason why the Smithwick Tribunal has been delayed in reaching a conclusion is twofold. First, an important witness has an unfortunate medical condition. Second, it appears that in recent times new intelligence has been furnished by the PSNI to the Tribunal which is relevant to the Tribunal’s work.
I think this Oireachtas has no option but to grant this further extension of time as sought by the Judge. Hopefully it will be the last. It is imperative for the sake of An Garda Siochana and indeed for the families of the murdered Officers that this Tribunal reports at the earliest available opportunity.
Of course the State would not need to spend millions of euro on this Tribunal of Inquiry, and the families of Officers Breen and Buchanan would not need to wait another year to find out all the information about how they were murdered if the people who were involved in the murders and their political representatives decided to tell the truth about what happened. Members of Sinn Féin in this House will no doubt criticise the cost of this Tribunal to the taxpayer. A Tribunal of Inquiry wouldn’t be necessary if they could get the people who killed Officers Breen and Buchanan in cold blood to cooperate with the Smithwick Tribunal. Sadly, the members of Sinn Féin beside me will not encourage those who were involved in the killings to tell the truth to this Tribunal of Inquiry. They know that if they answer questions about the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan that they will also have to answer questions about the other Irish people murdered throughout the years.
For instance, they would then have to answer questions about why and who murdered the Hanna family, a mother and father and their seven year old son who were returning from their holiday in the United States. That seven year old boy was blown to pieces by the brave warriors whose political supporters sit in this House today. Sinn Féin is great at lecturing this State and my party on how children’s rights were not adequately respected in the past. What respect did Sinn Féin and the IRA have for that seven year old boy back in July 1988 when they ended his life?
Why don’t the former members of the IRA and their political representatives sitting beside me tell the Irish people about why Tom Oliver, a farmer on the Cooley Peninsula, was murdered by them in August 1991? What does the current Sinn Féin TD for Louth have to say about the murder of Mr. Oliver? Does he have any relevant information to give An Garda Siochana or the Smithwick Tribunal about this murder or indeed about the disappearance of Jean McConville?
It is my responsibility as an Irish Republican to ask these questions. It is the responsibility of the political leaders of Sinn Féin who provided political support the people who carried out these murders to provide answers to the people of Ireland rather than evading their responsibilities.

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