Unionist leader Jim Allister has said the Smithwick tribunal should unearth the name of the IRA commander who gave the order for a lethal ambush in which two senior RUC officers died, even if it was “politically inconvenient”.
Mr Allister, leader of Traditional Unionist Voice, travelled to Dublin to hear the evidence of journalist Chris Ryder before the inquiry.
The tribunal was set up to look at claims of garda collusion in the 1989 deaths of chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, killed as the returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station.
“It is my belief that would have required a sanction from a very high level in the IRA,” said Mr Allister. “And I think this inquiry does need also to seek to unearth the identity of who gave that authorisation, whether that’s politically inconvenient or not.”
He said Mr Ryder’s evidence was “a timely resume of the degree and prevalence of assistance given to facilitate the IRA during the cross border campaign.”
“He made references to the lack of extradition, he made reference to the less than close cooperation that there was from southern authorities, and of course all of that fed into the IRA being able to sustain the campaign they sustained.
“This tribunal, I would say of it, its good that it’s happening, and I think its right that unionist politicians should show interest in it, because its the only window that there is on this whole vast saga of the cross-border dimension of the IRA’s campaign.
“We’ve had all sorts of inquiries the other way, so to speak. This is the only inquiry that seeks to cast any light on that, and I think it’s to the good that it does, and I trust that it gets to the whole truth.”
Members of the press and public, including Mr Allister, were later excluded from the tribunal as it heard evidence on intelligence issues from former British Army brigadier Mr Ian Lisles.
“One can understand where there might be circumstances where evidence needs to be taken and sifted if its of a particularly sensitive nature but its not in the interest of a public examination process if there’s very much of that,” Mr Allister said.
“As to what it might be, well there has been evidence in this tribunal about signals and about the presence and the timings of a sudden surge of CB radio activity and that sort of thing, and I would suspect that the brigadier might be going to talk about what they know about any surge in activity.”
Mr Allister said that the timing of any surge in CB or other radio traffic could shed vital light into how long the IRA had to prepare the deadly ambush, and therefore when they first learned of the travel plans of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan. The tribunal has previously heard that the 2pm meeting with Dundalk garda station was not arranged until the last minute on the morning of 20 March 1989.