McGuinness drawn into tribunal row

Smithwick tribunal

A solicitor for the family of the most senior RUC officer killed by the IRA during the Troubles has called on presidential candidate Martin McGuinness to provide any information he has to the Smithwick tribunal.

The tribunal was set up to examine claims that a leak from within the Gardai led to the IRA ambush in which RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan were killed in on 20 March 1989 as they returened from a meting in Dundalk garda station.

“It is my understanding that his name has been mentioned in the context of matters being investigated by the tribunal, said John McBurney, who represents the Breen family.

“I understand that information has been supplied to the tribunal which at least indicates that he may have some knowledge of matters touching on the tribunal’s terms of reference.”

The solicitor noted that Mr McGuinness had said he was “ashamed” about the 1987 Enniskillen bombing, in which 11 people died.

“Does he feel the same about what happened to chief superintendent Breen and superintendent Buchanan on 20 March 1989?” Mr McBurney asked.

The solicitor said that at the tribunal Mr McGuinness could avail of “legal protection” to give evidence from the witness box.

“Whatever he can say, he can say it with legal protection.”

Meanwhile, the tribunal heard from retired detective Mick O’Driscoll, who said he dismissed reports of an IRA mole in Dundalk Garda station at the time of the lethal ambush.

“I just put it down to the ramblings of some journalist trying to make a name for themselves,” he said.

Dundalk and North Louth was one of the most dangerous areas in the country for a Garda tro work in at the height of the troubles, the chief superintendent in charge of the Louth division told the tribunal.

At one point there were 13 Scott medal holders stationed in the area, chief superintendent Patrick Magee told the inquiry.

The Scott medal is the highest award for bravery that can be bestoed on a member of the force.

Chief superintendent Magee, who served most of his 34 years in the force in the border county, was himself awarded a Scott medal after he came under fire in 1985.

He said the town of Dundalk had “a very bad reputation” during the 1980s, but since the peace process began in the 1990s “it has improved in every regard.

The chief superintendent said that if he ever received information that a garda was a security risk, he would report it immediately to his superiors and begin an investigation.

Retired detective garda Fintan Kenny, said that he had not heard any talk among Gardai of a mole in the wake of the shootings, but there had been general banter” some time afterwards.

But he said it was more “I wonder was there a mole” rather than “there was a mole”.

He said he was never warned that he should watch what he said in the presence of any particular garda.