I expected more from Peter Smithwick than the report he delivered into accusations of Garda collusion in the murders of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.
Unfortunately for the families of those men, we’re no wiser now than we were twenty years ago about what happened, since the learned judge made no findings of fact in his summation of the Tribunal’s deliberations. He hasn’t even made a finding that would stand up to the level of scrutiny required of a civil court in Ireland and in Britain.
Peter Smithwick’s conclusions seem to be based entirely on his own personal intuition about what happened on the 20th March, 1989, and those intuitions seem to be based entirely on intelligence, otherwise known as supposition, supplied very late in the day by the British Army who, as we all know, have no agenda whatsoever.
Dundalk Garda station was under surveillance by the IRA from another house, and therefore there is no need to assume the existence of an informer, as Peter Smithwick has done. Clearly, the Judge is not familiar with Occam’s Razor. As he confirms in his report, there is no evidence of Garda collusion in the murder of the RUC men and yet certain individuals have been vilified and identified as participants in the operation to kill the two officers. I think this is wrong.
I also think it’s wrong that our Justice minister should be apologising for the crime when there is no evidence to confirm Garda involvement, other than the feelings of one man, Peter Smithwick. You might say he’s an eminent judge, and to that I’d reply, which of them is not eminent? Which of them is not fallible?
Nevertheless, surprisingly for a senior jurist, Peter Smithwick has set the evidential bar extremely low in this case.
For the families, at least they now know the facts of the murders, largely due to the evidence supplied on behalf of the IRA, ironically, but they still don’t know how the plan was formulated, or who transmitted the precise details of the two officers’ movements on the day they died. And they’ll never know, sadly because the IRA will never give up that information.
There may have been Garda involvement, and then again there may not, but Peter Smithwick’s report doesn’t settle that question one way or the other since in the end, he acknowledges that he’s not dealing in facts, but only in feelings, hunches and intuition. In his report, Smithwick draws attention to the fact that an Garda Síochána were less than helpful in his investigations and alludes to failings in the force, just as his colleague Fred Morris did seven years ago. At that time, Morris drew attention to the fundamental problems afflicting our national police force. The spirit wearies, he remarked, in a memorable summing up of his dealings with them, and here we are again, all this time later, with the Commissioner dismissing the findings of yet another judicial inquiry.
Smithwick might not be able to produce evidence about the Jonesboro murders, but he knows about his own dealings with the Guards, and he condemns them in his report for putting their own good name above everything else.
What did the Garda Commissioner say? The force described in this report is not the force I lead.
This is nonsense. Martin Callinan rose through the ranks. He knows all about hawks. He knows all about planting evidence. He knows all about Guards standing together to perjure themselves. He knows all about the culture of an Garda Síochána, which regards itself as a group separate from Irish society and which demands deference with the implicit threat that you might suffer if you don’t provide them with favours.
I’m personally aware of lawyers who have taken cases against this force and who have later been victimised in a tangential way. As one lawyer says, They might not do anything to you personally, but maybe your kids are in town. They’ll be stopped, they’ll be breathalysed every night.
I knew a Guard years ago who boasted of placing pornography under a suspect’s bed in order to cause conflict between him and his wife.
In Ireland, we have a combined intelligence service and police force, which is never a good thing. Police should deal in facts and leave the factoids to the spooks who are trained to know the difference between supposition, rumour and hard information. Our police force is gossip-led and this is a major problem for every Irish citizen, especially since our police force is so unprofessional that not a single one of them made the shortlist in the interviews for PSNI chief constable.
We need to thank Judge Peter Smithwick for alerting us, yet again, to the dismal state of our police force, but I’m afraid he didn’t throw a whole lot of light on the brutal murders of Bob Buchanan and Harry Breen, two ordinary cops shot down like dogs by people with no mandate to represent the rest of us.
People otherwise known as thugs.
How much did the Irish taxpayer shell out for a poorly-proofread report detailing the witness evidence and a summary setting out what the good judge felt in his heart of hearts? I don’t know, but I suppose it must have been several million euros.
Maybe it would have been cheaper to consult a fortune teller and give the millions to the families of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.