Skip to main content

Statement by the Tánaiste on the Smithwick Report


Statement by the Tánaiste on the Smithwick Tribunal Report, Leaders’ Questions, Dáil Éireann, 4 December 2013

The central grave finding of the Smithwick Tribunal report is that there was collusion within an Garda Siochána and the IRA in the murders of Chief Superintendant Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan.

I am appalled and saddened by this finding as I know all in this House will be. 

The Government apologised immediately on publication of Judge Smithwick’s report.  However I wish that it be placed also on the record of this House. 

On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I apologise without reservation to the Breen and Buchanan families for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies.  I am truly sorry for the loss and suffering that both families have endured. 

I want to acknowledge the dignified manner in which the Breen and Buchanan families have responded to publication of the report, and I wish to join with them in thanking Judge Peter Smithwick for producing such an open, honest, and comprehensive report.

Out of respect to their families, we should recall the human dimension of this atrocity.

Judge Peter Cory in his report in 2003 described Chief Superintendant Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan as two outstanding RUC officers.

Chief Superintendent Breen was a deeply caring family man, devoted to his wife June and to their two children, Gillian and David.

Superintendent Buchanan was known as a man of absolute integrity, and as a proud, dedicated and able police officer and loving husband of Catherine and caring father of their two children, Heather and William.

When they were murdered by the IRA on the Edenappa Road near Jonesborough on 20 March 1989, June and Catherine were each deprived of a loving husband and partner; Gillian, David, Heather and William each lost their father. Nothing can undo that. 

Over three and a half thousand men, women and children died during the troubles.  There is no hierarchy of suffering or grief.  But where these allegations of collusion by agents of the state were concerned, we have long agreed that the state bears a particular and solemn responsibility.

I have said previously that I don’t believe we can address the past constructively unless we are each prepared to ask questions of ourselves and of our own role.  We have done that today.

I know that members of An Garda Síochána will view actions as documented in the Report are a betrayal of the values they uphold and of the very ethos of an Garda Síochána as the guardians of peace.   They will be thinking today, as I am, of the sacrifices they and their predecessors made in performing their duty during the Troubles. They will be thinking of their colleagues who lost their lives, of those who were injured and of the very many who put their lives at risk.

The depth and quality of cross-border cooperation today between the PSNI and an Garda Síochána is second to none.  I wish to give both Forces credit for that.

Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, will meet with his counterpart in the Northern Executive, David Ford, along with the Chief Constable of the PSNI, Matt Baggott, and the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, in the coming weeks to discuss the report.

The Oireachtas has been consistent and unflinching in its demand for - and pursuit of - the truth in relation to the allegations of collusion identified by the British and Irish governments at Weston Park in 2001.

The Irish and British Governments then accepted that certain cases from the past gave rise to serious allegations of collusion by the security forces in each of our jurisdictions and remained a source of grave public concern.  The Governments are committed to undertake a thorough investigation of allegations of collusion in the cases of the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright. 

Arising from the Weston Park Agreement, Mr. Peter Cory, an eminent retired Canadian Supreme Court judge, was asked by the two Governments to investigate and report on the allegations of collusion. 

In line with Judge Cory’s recommendations to the Irish Government, a Tribunal of Inquiry was established by the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2005 into the murders of Chief Superintendant Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan. 

The independent Tribunal of Inquiry has now concluded its work and Judge Peter Smithwick has submitted his Report to this House. 

Whilst Judge Smithwick does not find direct evidence of collusion in the killings, he concludes, on the balance of probabilities that collusion did occur involving an unidentified member or members of An Garda Síochána.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Judge Smithwick for his report. I will ask the Chief Whip to arrange with the other party whips to give the Oireachtas an opportunity to further consider this report at the appropriate time.