31 March 2005 Edition
Breen/Buchanan inquiry and collusion double-standards
The Dáil last week voted to establish a public inquiry into allegations of collusion between a member of the Garda Siochána and the IRA in the 1989 shooting of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan in South Armagh. They were the most senior RUC officers killed in the conflict. Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin put the inquiry in the context of the real story of collusion, while Martin Ferris TD highlighted the murky background to the new inquiry, including the role of alleged informers and Irish Times journalist Kevin Myers. We carry here edited versions of their Dáil speeches.
Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin
We are in favour of a process of truth recovery. The tragic loss of all those who died in the political conflict on this island should be acknowledged and remembered. The grief of their relatives and friends must be acknowledged also. More than 3,500 died in the conflict. They were men, women, children, civilians, combatants and members of all the armed groups, both state and non-state. All armed forces involved in the conflict inflicted death and injury. They need to acknowledge that. Some have done so while others have not. The British Government has never acknowledged its role in the armed conflict in our country. In particular, it has never admitted its use of collusion throughout the conflict since 1969. No one who has seriously and honestly studied this conflict over the past 36 years doubts that there was systematic collusion between British forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
The most murderous loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association, which operated under the cover name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, was co-founded in 1971 by Charles Harding-Smith, a self-confessed British Intelligence agent. The British Army's military reaction force was established by Brigadier Frank Kitson, the leading counter-insurgency officer, to co-ordinate the British military and the loyalist death squads. Throughout the conflict British forces were guided by the British Army's training manual, Land Operations, Volume III — Counter-insurgency Options, which defines its role as "Liaison with, and organisation, training and control of, friendly guerrilla forces operating against the common enemy".
That is the basis of collusion. It is not ancient history, but is relevant right up to the present. The British Government has introduced legislation, the Inquiries Bill, which is designed to prevent any realistic inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane or that of any other victim of collusion between British forces and loyalist death squads. That legislation will empower a British Minister to order an inquiry to be held behind closed doors. Judge Peter Cory, who recommended the inquiry being established today, has severely criticised this legislation. He has advised his colleague judges in Canada not to participate in any inquiry under such legislation. British Ministers and military will still have the controlling hand when it comes to the release of information. We have seen how they have used that power.
Very little attention has been given to the most recent report of the Oireachtas committee established on foot of the Barron report. That committee severely reprimands the British Prime Minister for his refusal to establish an inquiry, as called for by the Oireachtas, into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. It goes further and states that his action is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. The British Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Office and the PSNI refuse to co-operate in any meaningful way with the Barron investigation or with the work of the Oireachtas committee.
Today the Oireachtas is establishing a full-blown public inquiry into the alleged collusion of a member or members of the Garda Síochána into the killing of senior RUC officers, Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan, in 1989, yet no public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane has been established. Even more outrageously, we have had no public inquiry in either jurisdiction into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of nearly 31 years ago or into any of the incidents in which at least 47 people died in the 26 Counties, killed as a result of collusion or directly by British forces. An attempt has been made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, by his fellow Unionists and sections of the media to equate alleged collusion of a Garda or Gardaí in the killing of these two RUC officers with widespread and systematic collusion between British forces, including the RUC, and the loyalist paramilitaries. This is not done out of any desire for truth or justice. It is presented as a debating point and as an attempt to put Sinn Féin in the wrong when we highlight the responsibility of successive British Governments for collusion. That is the blatant and bald truth of it.
Anyone with relevant information should come forward to assist this inquiry.
The British Government has never admitted to collusion in any form. It has never acknowledged its responsibility for the many deaths it caused as a result of collusion. This was a major part of its war in Ireland which claimed many lives. The primary responsibility in the search for truth rests with that Government. The IRA has admitted its involvement in the killing of these two RUC officers. It saw this attack as an act of war. These were officers of the British state in Ireland. Both of them played key roles in the conflict. Their deaths were no different from those of senior officers in the RIC who were shot in similar circumstances during the 1919 to 1921 period. It was actions such as that which led directly to the foundation of this State. But for actions of that type, the Minister's grandfather, Eoin MacNeill, would never have been a Cabinet Minister and neither would there have been an opportunity for this Minister to participate in an Irish Cabinet.
I endorse the request made by Deputy Ó Caoláin that everybody with relevant information ought to make himself or herself available to this tribunal. The tribunal should be allowed to examine the entire background to the allegations made, particularly in regard to the individual who claims to have persuaded Judge Cory to request that it be established.
Toby Harnden is one of the sources for the claims that there was collusion involving members of the Garda in the killing of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan. He has already been castigated by Judge Peter Cory for failing to substantiate that claim. Cory said his interviews with both Harnden and Kevin Myers revealed how little these gentlemen relied on fact and how much on suspicion and hearsay. Harnden has already been found to have made an unsubstantiated allegation that those killed in Bloody Sunday in Derry had been involved in violence that day. It would appear that Harnden distorted a statement given to him by one of the paratroopers involved in that event. Kevin Myers, who repeated the allegations made by Harnden, has already reacted in his usual manner, by attacking Cory, comparing him to Homer Simpson. There has been speculation that both Myers and Harnden will attempt to avoid giving evidence to the tribunal, further proof of the shallow nature of their claims.
The centre of the allegation is a person named Peter Keely, who uses the name Kevin Fulton. Keely, who claimed to have been a British agent within the IRA, was discredited by Scotland Yard, which claimed his false information cost it £1.5 million in wasted police time. Another source is a person named Martin Ingram, otherwise known as Jack Graham. He claims to have worked for the Force Research Unit and was completely discredited when he appeared at the Saville tribunal. It is interesting that both he and the other person mentioned have similar claims and used each other to back up their scurrilous allegations. It would appear that the Garda Síochána has already formed an opinion as regards the reliability of their statements. The Garda also described one of them as an intelligent nuisance and a serial informer who is not to be trusted. Yet they are the people whose claims are to form the basis for the setting up of this tribunal.
We are therefore entitled to ask what really lies behind the tribunal. I do not doubt that Judge Cory was genuine in his belief that the claims made by the aforementioned warranted further investigation, but I contend that he was gravely misled by that individual. A closer examination of his purported evidence would have come to the same conclusion as investigations into other claims concerning Garda collusion in the killing of Justice Gibson. There must surely be a suspicion, therefore, that allegations made are part of an attempt by British agencies to divert attention from the ongoing investigations of their roles in events in this country.
This also comes at a time when a concerted and possibly successful attempt is being made to ensure that Peter Cory's investigations into those events will be sabotaged in the same manner as previous investigations into the involvement in violence by the British state. It is surely convenient at this time, when the spotlight should be on the murky role of British intelligence, that this tribunal has been initiated on the basis of what are generally believed to be baseless allegations made by discredited journalists, who have relied on their own imaginations and the word of discredited informers. If one of the aforementioned informers turns out to be a genuine agent, why did he make the claims, and at whose behest?
I note the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, in his remarks did not endorse the Taoiseach's support for Judge Cory's conclusions regarding the efforts to sabotage the Finucane and other inquiries. Neither did he refer to the refusal by the British authorities to co-operate in a meaningful way with the investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.