Death on the Border Spotlight

Death on the Border

After the Smithwick Inquiry found Garda-IRA collusion in the murders of two police officers, Stephen Dempster finds out why fears persist about other cases.

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This is a story that begins with a double murder. The victims were


officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan. The highest ranking


members of the RUC killed by the IRA and all with help from within the


Garda. That's the shattering conclusion of the Smithwick


Tribunal. An inquiry into collusion between the Irish police and the


IRA. The findings were really staggering. They were shocking.


Smithwick points to evidence of collusion in the murder of a High


Court judge, Lord Justice Gibson. If there is an inquiry in the Gibson


case and it comes to the same conclusion then the authorities in


Dublin are going to have to face the fact that they have systemic problem


not just individual cases. Years of Unionist suspicion abouts the Guards


have been fuelled by a series of scandals. Exposing a culture of


cover-up going back decades. It is all done with the sole intention of


protecting the reputation of the force of the it is just the way they


operate. Of course, the one organisation we can be sure knows


the extent of collusion is the IRA and tonight we ask - is this the man


who knows the truth? It is six months since the smit wick


Report was published after an eight year investigation. It found that


there was Garda-IRA in the 1989 murders of RUC members Harry Breen


and Bob Buchanan. But it could not identify the officer or officers


involved. The findings received a mixed reaction from the Guards. The


commissioner rejected a key conclusion which suggested the force


had a culture of hiding the truth. The police force that's described is


not the police force that I lead and Garda Siochana at all times seeks to


establish the truth. Dud But since then, attention has


shifted to a series of IRA murders. Jean and Beatty Doak had suspicion


since the day their daughter was murdered. As soon as the Smithwick


Inquiry was finished I thought the same thing could have happened


Tracy. Constable Tracy Doak was killed by


the IRA in 1985, she was 21. That's her there. Yeah. Tracy followed her


brother and father into the RUC. I don't think she thought she was


brave. I think she just thought she was doing a job. She might have been


scared from time to time, but she never talked much about it. Tracy


had been part of an RUC pa tral taking over from the Garda Siochana


to escort a Brink's-Mat van. A bomb was detonated. The plast killed


three of Tracy's colleagues. News of her death reached her father in


North Antrim hours later. We had a thorn hedge up the lane and I was


cutting the hedge and I noticed the police car coming up the lane. The


Chief Superintendent got out of the car. I knew then that something had


happened and I said, "You're coming to tell me that Tracy has been


killed." And the superintendent said there is no easy way of telling you.


She was getting married and wanted to transfer out of Newry and she


phoned me the morning she was killed and I could see that I could get her


into Antrim Traffic Branch. And that was the last conversation we had


with her. I could have got her out of Newry. I'm sure I could. There is


not a day passes that I don't think about it. Less than two years after


the murders, Mr Doak left the RUC, disillusioned with the handling of


the case. He wondered how the IRA pinpointed the movements of the RUC


officers. Here we are on the border between north and south. It is about


200 yards up that road where Tracy Doak and her colleagues were killed,


but the question is how did the IRA know the RUC were going to be here?


Tonight, Spotlight can reveal details of a historical inquiry team


reports into the Doak case never before made public. It says IRA


surveillance could have predicted where this RUC patrol would be, but


not only did the IRA seem to know the exact route the officers would


take, witness evidence in the report indicates that they also knew the


day the patrol would be on the road. This new information has


strengthened the Doak's belief that a Gardai mole may have been


involved. I just didn't believe it at the time, but as time has went


on, I think there must have been. There is a lot of questions to be


asked about that. Which I have no answer for. This is the old Belfast


to Dublin road. So much of what happened here seems to belong to the


past. So many murders shrouded in mystery. But that is something that


has begun to change. Just two years after Tracy Doak and


her colleagues died and on the same stretch of road, Lord Justice Gibson


and Lady Gibson were killed. Again, it raised the question of Gardai


leaks. The couple were killed after they left their Gardai escort. The


judge was the most senior member of the judiciary to be killed by the


IRA during the troubles. The Gibson case and the issue of ga


Gardai collusion became part of the talks. Demands were met with counter


demands from Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble. It was clear to us


that the Prime Minister was going to grant the requests of republican


movement that some inyrries that they want -- inquiries they wanted


to see would take place. We said we have got to balance the book and we


looked around and Breen and Buchanan was an obvious case and the Gibson


case because of the circumstances there as well.


As a result of the deal at Western Park, retired Canadian judge, Peter


Cory was appointed to investigate cases of collusion. The Gibson case


was the only one not recommended for a full public inquiry. In reaching


his decision, Judge Cory re-examined the evidence. His report retraced


the final journey of Lord and Lady Gibson. They had taken a ferry to


Dublin after a holiday in England. The report noted the trip had been


booked in their own names. It was concluded the travel arrangements


were widely known. The IRA could have learned of Judge Gibson's plans


without a Gardai leak. At the time of the murders, the


Garda dismissed claims of collusion. Judge Cory discovered at a later


stage, the Garda did obtain intelligence that one their officers


helped kill the Gibsons. He said the intelligence was supplied over ten


years after the murders and came from a source whose reliability he


questioned. But we now know the Cory Report was wrong because Smithwick


discovered a mistake. Intelligence wasn't gathered over a decade after


the murders, but just three years later. And importantly, Smithwick


found the source of the information was very reliable. This was after he


spoke to the handler of the source himself. Lord Trimble is calling for


the Irish Government to review Cory's decision. It is quite clear


now that a mistake was made and that mistake should be put right. It is


not the figurement of unionist imagination. There is clear evidence


that points towards collusion again. Do you think there should be an


inquiry into the Gibson case? Ye They should have initially, but


especially now when we've got the Smithwick report there and what's


contained within that, there is an overwhelming case. There is an


overriding reason for doing this and that's the Garda commissioner and


other officers reacted poorly to the Smithwick case. They were reluctant


to accept the conclusion that there had been collusion and if we only


have Breen and Buchanan they could go around saying, "It was an


isolated case." If there is an inquiry in the Gibson case and it


comes to the same conclusion the authorities in Dublin are going to


have to face the fact that they have a systemic problem, not just


individual cases. there was a real worry that IRA terrorist might


attempted to stop this establishment general... Rosemary Dixon, seen here


at parents funeral, has never commented publicly on the murders.


Many years it was thought the family did not want an enquiry. In a


statement to Spotlight, breaking a 27 year silence, Rosemary has called


for the case to be reopened. She said had never accepted the Corrie


report and said he had mishandled the crucial evidence. She also added


that mistakes made by Judge Cory denied their family a public enquiry


and then no pressure was brought on those who were responsible for the


death of her parents. The British and Irish governments told us they


had no plans to reopen the case. Judge Cory and his team said the


original report must speak for itself. The Smethwick inquiry heard


even more damning information about the Gibson case. An Assistant Chief


Constable from Northern Ireland to the enquiry that the PSNI had


reliable intelligence to stay that a rogue Garda colluded. John McBurney


sap but -- sat through all but one day of the hearings. Had Judge Cory


know in this recent intelligence, I have no doubts that he would have


recommended an enquiry, a full-scale enquiry into the awful murder of the


Gibsons. John McBurney believes that the evidence in the Smethwick


inquiry, in conjunction with other evidence, adds to previous concerns


about pollution, and not just in the Gibson and Tracey Doak case. If you


look closely at the border incidents, you begin to have very


troublesome thoughts about a series of other border incidents, where


information seem to have filtered out to paramilitaries. The murder of


the Hammer family is one such case. In 1988 the IRA stepped off a huge


bomb on the border. Their target was another High Court judge who had


flown into Dublin and was met by her Garda escort. The IRA admitted they


were targeting the judge later and they knew his travel plans, but they


made a mistake in identifying his car. Instead, they killed Robin


Hammer, his wife Maureen and their six-year-old son, David. In the


space of four years, 11 people had been killed in remarkably similar


circumstances. Time and again, the IRA carried out a series of attacks


in this area and with each murder concerns and rumours group that they


had access to information from within the Irish police. In 1989,


the Garda, with support from the RUC, was adamant there was no Garda


Leake. I reject any suggestion of that kind. Categorically, the


evidence which we have firmly confirms to us that there was no


more. 24 years later, Judge Smethwick find that certain officers


in Dundalk were close to the IRA and utterly from the station led


directly to the deaths of Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan. He


dismissed efforts that the gardai had made to investigate the


allegations over the years and in relation to the tribunal, well he


plays some individual guards for their honest evidence, he found that


are part of a culture which simply sought to deny any suggestion of


collusion. These were two very singular RUC officers. They were


murdered in brutal circumstances by the IRA, he seemed to have an


incredible amount of information on their movements. If you follow on


from that, there were other killings that have taken place. If it had


emerged that the gardai had assisted the IRA to carry out several


different murders, the consequences of that entering the public we were


too much -- the public domain, were too much for the forced to bear. It


was a culture that is said continues to this day. In the opinion of Judge


Smethwick, the Garda Siochana is of course that's praises loyalty more


than honesty. It wasn't just around some dork that collusion surfaced.


New evidence of a separate Garda-IRA collusion is emerging in another


border area. The border is three miles in that direction. John lives


outside Castle Jurgen County Tyrone. The minority Protestant community


here is miles from the County Dunning border. In April 1991 his


brother was killed as he sat in a car at his parent -- parents's


home. He was 23. My father heard the shooting, heard the car speeding


off, went out to find his son slumped over the steering wheel. His


son was dead. He came back into the house. My mother was in hysterics.


They tried to phone us. Somebody from the IRA phoned to say have you


been I get to see what we have done. Until it happens to yourself, you


don't know what it is like. Our past are present. What happened 23 years


ago is just like it happened yesterday. That is the truth. The


document, given to a journalist reports to show that Mr Sproule was


a suspected member of the UVF and was wanted for questioning. I Garda


document identifying him as a suspected Loyalist paramilitary


ended up in the hands of the IRA. His family has always denied the


accusation. It wasn't true, but unfortunately it is cost up, if you


name a person, it goes all around the area. His name was blackened. It


emerged during the Smethwick earrings that both the gardai and


the RUC carried out investigations into how the IRA got hold of this


document. We have a copy of the RUC investigation. It reveals that the


gardai and Donny G would taking an entry interest and Ian Sproule in


the weeks before he was killed. It concluded it was, beyond doubt, that


there was I gardai leak to the IRA. In fact, we have been told some of


the information about alleged collusion supplied to the RUC came


from gardai who were concerned that some of their colleagues might have


been core operating with the IRA. Form over two decades, John and


Jennifer were totally unaware of the RUC report. The parallel gardai


investigation at the time reported that it could not find the leak.


Spotlight has been told that the forces to exchange reports, but


nothing happened. It is a revelation that has shocked the family. We are


lost for words. We can't understand that. Common sense would say that


something is up here. The police force and justice system should be


doing something for us. This needs to be lived into. It seems to be


brushed under the carpet. I feel that the RUC and the 25 Micro have


wanted to hide this because if the truth that, got the time, it was


going to frighten people. When the Smithwick Tribunal investigated


collusion in the murders of Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan, its focus


turned to three guard I -- 25 Micro stationed in Dundalk. They were


former Sergeant Finbar Hickey. Hickey was convicted in 2001 other


signing applications for forced -- for false passports that end up in


the hands of IRA members. He has denied knowing that the passport


went to the IRA. The Smithwick Tribunal was satisfied he had no


involvement in the murders of the two policeman, based on the fact he


was not on duty that day. Smethwick accepted that this man helped the


IRA. Colton has always categorically denied having any associations with


the IRA. Smethwick said there was insufficient evidence to connect him


to the murders of Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan. Both Hickey and


Colton declined to speak to this programme. Owen Corrigan. Smethwick


find that he had a series of inappropriate dealings with the IRA


over a number of years. The judge said there was insufficient evidence


that Corrigan ticked off the IRA in the murders of Harry Breen and


Robert Buchanan. Corrigan declined to appear in this programme, citing


ill-health. In a statement he said any evidence presented to the


enquiry suggesting he had any inappropriate relationship with the


IRA was rumour and gossip. Totally unsubstantiated and did not


constitute legal evidence. Judge Smethwick did not find the source of


the collusion, but he did expose major problems in the ranks of done


dark Gardai station. The station at Dundalk, trying to police an area


that was almost ungovernable. He had a high concentration of Republican


paramilitaries, organised crime was rife. Anybody standing back could


see that police officers are vulnerable in those circumstances,


particularly if you're dealing with an organisation like the IRA. The


fact that there were certain individual officers heavily involved


in corruption and wrong doing does not come as a surprise to me. The


fact that no one took them on and tried to stop it and that this


indiscipline continued, that does not surprise me either. It is not a


huge problem within the force, but it has been uncertain divisions. It


happens. In 1989, businessman John Mack on


old team was shot dead by the IRA. He was a cross-border smuggler and a


RUC informer. Smethwick heard that for years before his death he told


his RUC handlers that are 24 Micro in special Branch was helping the


IRA. He named Owen Corrigan. In a statement to Spotlight, Owen


Corrigan rejected this entirely. He said that the police intelligence


naming him as a link to the IRA was impossible to verify. That it was


mere rumour and hearsay. Tom Oliver was also killed by the IRA. He was a


farmer in County Louth. Judge Smethwick excepted witness accounts


that Owen Corrigan had told the IRA that Oliver had been passing


information on IRA had to do these to the gardai. It is one of the most


controversial aspects to the report. Owen Corrigan believed it implicated


him directly in the murder of Oliver. He rejects this entirely. He


has been granted permission to challenge the section of the report.


Spotlight has contacted a number of gardai who worked in Dundalk at that


time. Privately, all of them except that there was a problem at the


station but some are very critical of the Smithwick Report, believing


there was not enough direct evidence to be a finding of collusion. They


also felt that all of them have been left under a cloud of suspicion, but


none would agree to talk on camera. Since Smethwick published his


report, and a number of plays and scandals in the South has revealed


allegations of corruption and cover-up in the modern-day force and


amid a public eye cry over pleasing standards, the Commissioner and the


Irish Justice Minister have both resign. Among the present-day


scandals, it emerged that gardai had recordings of conversations at some


police stations for over 30 years. These could have been of real


importance to Judge Smethwick, but we can confirm that the gardai never


told him about the tapes. Our wholesale review of police and


failure is now proposed. Observers in the South said the scandals have


still a way to go. They have claimed the head of the Minister, I gardai


Commissioner, and independent ombudsman. There are police boards


coming in because of that. This is still ongoing. There are still


reports to come out on investigations launched as a result


of the scandals. Elsewhere, there are calls for the gardai to deal


with the claims of collusion bonds and parole. It will be important for


the families of the bereaved, showing that a proper enquiry has


been done and they now know more about the did beforehand is -- than


they did beforehand. It should be welcomed by the Irish police because


it plays their problems and we have all made the mistake of thinking


that problems can be brushed aside, or that it is only a small case and


not a systemic problem. That is not healthy in the long run. Of all the


cases of alleged collusion, Spotlight understands there is only


one being investigated. Terence McKeever was killed by the IRA in


South Armagh in 1986 and 28 years later, the Gardai is accused of


hindering a current investigation. The firm did work for RUC stations


and the Garda. He was a businessman carrying out a day's work. He had no


political ideals. Terence had friends both sides of the border,


all religions, so it was a big shock.


Spotlight has seen the report into the killing which reveals that the


gun used was also use in the murders of Breen and Buchanan. It reveals


that 16 items of forensic evidence linked to the murder and stored by


the Garda went missing. Karen refuses to believe this was an


accident. This is a murder case. It is not like a packet of sweets going


missing from a shop. That shouldn't happen. If people are doing their


job properly and not incompetent that wouldn't have happened. No


walks in off the street and lifts those items so an inside was


involved so it is a member of the Gardai. I feel like the Gardai


should be investigated. In 2009, she asked the Gardai ombudsman's office


to investigate. Five years later, she is still waiting for a report in


its findings and in the letter to Karen the ombudsman's office reveals


a problem. It has been a lack of co-operation. Not only from former


Guards but in dealing with the present day force. The Garda told


Spotlight it could not comment as the ombudsman's inquiry is ongoing.


They haven't co-operated otherwise it wouldn't have taken five years to


complete a report. It makes me angry. I thought the Guards upheld


law and order and didn't obstruct the course of jus of justice and


because Terence worked with them I thought they would respect his case.


It is thought the ombudsman is likely to clund clund conclude soon.


It said: John ma burny is calling for an


inquiry into the cases of alleged collusion. It makes you think that


when Judge Smithwick finds in March 199 a guard or guards provided the


information to the same terrorist grouping that in 1988 who was


providing information which led to the murder by mistake of the Hanna


family who was providing information which led to the murder of Lord


Justice Gibson and Lady Gibson who perhaps was assisting in the


disposal of forensics in the murder of Terence McKeever and the


movements of the Brink's-Mat van in 1985, all of those events could have


been contaminated by information from a guard or guards. That leaves


you asking the question -- do we not need to probe each and everyone of


those incidents in an organised and structured way in order to identify


precisely who the ka colluder or Colluders are?


This is Sean Gerrard Hughes. He is a leading South Armagh republican.


During the Smithwick Tribunal a former RUC Special Branch officer


named him as the leader of an IRA unit which carried out 80 murders in


the Armagh Louth border region. That unit has been linked to all of the


murders in which collusion is suspected in that area. We asked him


to speak to the programme. Through his solicitor he declined stating


any broadcast of such allegations would be prejudicial. He has never


been charged in connection with any of these murders and denies any


participation in IRA activities. But Spotlight understands that Sean


Gerrard Hughes led a three-man IRA delegation which met with the


Smithwick Tribunal. We asked him about this allegation which was


reported in the media while the tribunal was ongoing. He declined to


comment. I think the IRA in South Armagh believed this could be a


moment where they would come across as co-operating with the tribunal in


a definitive moment in their own history. It didn't work out that way


for them. In his report, Smithwick said parts


of what the IRA told him about the Breen and Buchanan murders was


accepted. He said other parts of their


evidence did not stand up. In many ways the statement he made to


tribunal made a mockery of the claims for ommissions and inquiries


where the truth will be revealed about these matters. This was a


classic case where the IRA could have shown some good faith and told


the truth about what happened, but it went back that they had people


within the Guards and they had to protect them. Unionist and


nationalist politicians simply said the IRA lied. If the Smithwick


Tribunal is a test case for the IRA to participate in some truth


commission, it really failed abysmally because they came back to


defending their members and covering up what happened. The IRA can't come


out and say what it did because then we're getting into who knew what and


when? That could be dynamite for Sinn Fein and destroy their


leadership for once and for all if they were to tell the truth and


that's why they never will and they never can.


As the dust settles on the Smithwick Report, the families of the victims


in these cases are demanding the Irish Government does not draw a


veil over their murders. The victims group which John Sproule is a member


of has been trying for over a year to get a meeting with the Irish


Government without success. The Smithwick Tribunal has brought Ian


back into the limelight and I'm glad that happened. We want to stay open


and sort it out once and for all and whoever dealt with the Garda ka


conclusion needs to be dealt with in the Irish State.


We asked both the Garda commissioner and the Irish Justice Minister to


take part in this programme, but they declined. And a spokeswoman for


the Taoiseach said he had already met and will continue to engage with


many victims groups. But some observers say dealing with the past


is not a priority in the south. The Smithwick Tribunal report at this


stage is history in the south of Ireland. It was something that was


seen as being far away and long ago. These are still live political


issues in Northern Irish politics specifically. I don't think we'll


ever know those things. Maybe in 75 years there will be some archives


that will be opened in the National Archives and we can read some


reports of some things, but for now, we'll never know.


Telling the full story of what happened in this border area will


depend on truthful accounts from north and south. The most recent


proposals for dealing with the past said the Irish State will have to


play its role. Something John Mc Birney says is overdue. The innocent


victims in all of this carry hurt with them every day. The hurt is


compounded when someone says, "We need to move beyond your hurt." That


doubles the hurt and the sense of vulnerability, and the sense of


isolation and the sense of not being able to make any progress in what


for many people has become almost a lifetime endeavour to get


scratchings of information to piece together what happened their loved


ones. People who have lost so much over these years, that's what


they're longing for. Those details. And that acknowledgement. In the


meantime, the victims are left wondering. You just try to show a


brave face when you're talking to people, but in the back of your mind


you can see Trady's face -- Tracy Tracy's face.


Six months after the Smithwick Inquiry found Garda-IRA collusion in the murders of two police officers, Stephen Dempster finds out why fears persist about other cases and why there is a call for an inquiry into the Lord Justice Gibson killing.

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