PACEMAKER BELFAST THE BULLET RIDDLED CAVALIER CAR BELONGING TO SENIOR RUC OFFICERS HARRY BREEN AND BOB BUCHANNON MURDERED IN AN IRA AMBUSH IN JONESBOROUGH 21/3/89 The British Attorney General has confirmed to RT� News that immunity from prosecution has been granted to any former secret agent or informant who gives evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin. The Tribunal is investigating whether there was collusion between the IRA and a garda in the murder of the two most senior RUC officers to die in Northern Ireland. The move will clear the way for former members of the British security forces and those who worked for them in Northern Ireland to give evidence.
Raymond White made the claim yesterday at the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin.
He served as chief of RUC Special Branch in Belfast in the 1980s before going on to head up CID as Assistant Chief Constable in the 1990s.
Yesterday, Mr White concurred with barrister Richard Smith, who is representing former agent Peter Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton, when asked if, to his knowledge, the two men – Freddie Scappaticci and John Joe Magee – worked in the IRA’s internal security unit.
However, Mr White said he was not prepared to say that Mr Scappaticci was the agent known as Stakeknife.
Mr Scappaticci has consistently denied being a member of the IRA. He has, in the past, been linked to the agent known as Stakeknife who was a member of the IRA’s nutting squad, but Mr Scappaticci denies this.
John Joe Magee, now dead, was a Belfast republican who lived in Dundalk.
Mr Scappaticci is legally represented at the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin, which is probing claims that the IRA team which murdered RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were assisted by a rogue garda officer.
The two policemen, who were the most senior RUC officers to be murdered by the IRA during the Troubles, died in an ambush on March 20, 1989 as they drove back to Newry following a meeting at Dundalk garda station.
Mr White also revealed to the tribunal yesterday that there were high levels of frustration within the RUC that the spot from which the 1979 Narrow Water bomb was detonated – across Carlingford Lough, in the Republic – was so contaminated that evidence could not be gathered from it.
Eighteen soldiers were killed by two remote controlled bomb explosions close to Warrenpoint on August 27 – it was the Army’s greatest loss of life in a single day in the Troubles.
It is understood that the tribunal will hear more about the Narrow Water atrocity over the course of this month.
Mr White also told the tribunal that he was aware of three cases in which RUC officers had been suspected of colluding with terrorists. He said in dealing with such suspicions the officer would be monitored for change in behaviour. There had been circumstances where covert surveillance was placed upon an officer or his phone monitored.
Even if no evidence of collusion was found, he said, they would be transferred to another posting as a precaution.
Mr White further told the tribunal the IRA funded itself mostly via black taxis and shebeens. He said the IRA had “an annual turnover of £9 million” in the 1970s.
He revealed that, during the 1980s, Special Branch in Belfast had up to 200 registered informers, and each of these had two to three officers handling them.
Meanwhile, the tribunal heard yesterday morning that journalist Toby Harnden, whose book Bandit Country reignited the garda collusion debate when it was published in 2000, has declined to give evidence to the tribunal.
Judge Smithwick was told that Mr Harnden had been scheduled to give evidence for two days this week – Wednesday and Thursday. But counsel for the tribunal Fintan Valentine said this would not happen as Mr Harnden had now said he was unavailable.
Mr Valentine said Mr Harnden’s withdrawal appeared to have been decided after consultation with the journalist’s new employers, Associated Newspapers.
But in a statement yesterday Mr Harnden rejected this and also said he stands over everything in his book.
He now works as a journalist for the Daily Mail, based in America, and was yesterday covering the US Republican Presidential race.
“The decision not to appear before the Smithwick Tribunal is mine and mine alone,” he said, adding that he believes evidence already heard at the tribunal from former members of the RUC and garda backs up what he wrote in Bandit Country.
With Many Thanks to : News Letter
- Fantasy Troubles Part III – Britain’s Superspies! (ansionnachfionn.com)
- How spooks are undermining peace in Northern Ireland | Paul Larkin (guardian.co.uk)
- Why did Toby Harden refuse to attend the Smithwick Tribunal? (sluggerotoole.com)
- Journalist refuses to give evidence (guardian.co.uk)
- “Maybe your client is understating his importance.” (sluggerotoole.com)