RUC told taoiseach deemed bombing ‘a political crime’

Smithwick tribunal

A senior garda officer told RUC investigators in 1980 that the taoiseach had deemed the IRA bombing in which 18 British soldiers were killed was “a political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC.”

The revelation came during evidence from a retired RUC officer, identified as Witness 68, who was present at the 1980 meeting in Dublin castle.

The meeting was the last of four attempts by RUC detectives to gain access to two suspects in the bombing, who were living in the Republic.

The RUC hoped either to interview the men in the south, or to sit in while Garda detectives interviewed the suspects.

Witness 68 said that he met with an assistant garda commissioner called McLaughlin in April 1980 in Dublin castle.

“Mr McLaughlin declared that the taoiseach from the outset of the inquiry had decreed that the killings a political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC investigators.”

Jack Lynch, who was taoiseach when the deadly Warrenpoint ambush took place in August 1979, was succeeded by Charles Haughey in December 1979.

The witness added that Mr McLaughlin was “very firm”.

“There would be nothing further in relation to Warrenpoint and we were not to come back,” he said.

But he said Bill Mooney, the senior RUC officer in charge of CID, responded: “I can assure you while this crime remains unsolved we will be coming back to see you all again.”

The witness said he was later told by the RUC Chief Constable that he was “embarrassing” the Garda Siochana by pursuing the case.

At the time, Witness 68 was a detective inspector in charge of the inquiry. He later retired with the rank of deputy assistant chief constable.

Evidence about the Dublin Castle meeting was delayed as Ms [Nuala] Butler, representing the public interest on behalf of the attorney general, objected to evidence being given relating to “political matters”.

But tribunal barrister Ms Mary Laverty said the evidence should be heard as evidence had been given that former garda detective sergeant Corrigan had interfered with a crime.

Ms Laverty said that if the Warrenpoint investigation was “subject to political diktat” then a decision not to preserve a possible crime scene where a bomb was detopnated could have been made “above his pay grade.”