Gardaí 'didn't value loyalty over honesty'

Published Thursday, 12 December 2013
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The Garda Commissioner has said he will never accept a judge's finding that officers valued loyalty to the force over the truth during an eight year inquiry which uncovered collusion with the IRA.

Gardaí 'didn't value loyalty over honesty'
RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, who were murdered in 1989. (© Pacemaker)

Martin Callinan said he rejects one of the damning conclusions by tribunal head Peter Smithwick, which was that members of the force prize loyalty to the uniform over honesty.

The judge found that an IRA mole in the Garda station in Dundalk tipped off a terrorist hit squad that led to the murders of two of the most senior RUC men killed in the Troubles - Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

They were ambushed on a rural border road in what was known as the 'bandit country' of south Armagh after a high-level meeting with Garda officers in Dundalk on 20 March, 1989.

In a blistering attack on the culture of the force, Judge Smithwick said he was depressed and disheartened that reputation still takes priority over everything else.

More than a week after the tribunal reported, Mr Callinan said: "I did say I have accepted the conclusions arrived at by the Smithwick tribunal, but in the context, in the narrow confined context of loyalty to the organisation above loyalty to the truth I cannot and do not and will never accept that.

"An Garda Síochána, I think, are well known for prescribing to the values."

Mr Callinan said senior officers are examining the report line by line to uncover any issues before ruling out a third internal probe.

Previous internal inquiries - one in 1989 and another in 2000 - were also criticised by the Smithwick Tribunal.

The Commissioner said: "It's on the balance of probabilities that the Smithwick Tribunal found a person or persons unknown to have colluded with the IRA and I have already expressed my horror that such a finding could be found, however I do not for the moment see anything there on studying it.

"It's a week old, we will continue to look at all of the aspects line by line that have been highlighted.

"This report was eight years in gestation so we have to be very careful in terms of how we look at these things and if there's anything that needs to be addressed I and my senior team will address them."

In his report, Judge Smithwick took on the Garda Commissioner, whose lawyers he accused of setting out to undermine former chief superintendent Tom Curran.

Describing Mr Curran as of the utmost integrity, the tribunal fully accepted evidence from the former Monaghan policeman that he told Garda HQ in 1988 that Superintendent Bob Buchanan was on an IRA hit list.

The intelligence, from an informant, was passed to the then assistant commissioner Eugene Crowley - but there are no records or files to show the information was acted upon.

The Garda Commissioner said his colleagues have been left devastated by the findings of the tribunal.

"My men and women work very, very hard under very trying circumstances," he added.

"They are subject to all sorts of provocation on a daily basis and it is the case that they do put their lives on the line out there - there is no question or doubt about any of that.

"You can imagine how that [Smithwick] affects individuals and the morale of individuals in terms of some of the pieces of the report that spoke to how they conduct their business."

Mr Callinan said there has been no public backlash.

"But there is a huge difference in someone being non-compliant with regulations and indeed how they behave in a certain instance and the type of language that's expressed in this report about the organisation and its loyalty to the organisation above the truth," he added.

© UTV News
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