Irish government ‘refused cooperation’ with probe into IRA attack

Warrenpoint ambushBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The government of the Republic of Ireland allegedly ordered senior police officials not to assist an investigation into a 1979 attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army that killed 18 British soldiers in the UK province of Northern Ireland. The attack, known as the Warrenpoint ambush, took place in the afternoon of August 27, when a British military convoy was blown up by a remote-controlled 500-pound fertilizer bomb hidden in a lorry loaded with straw bales. It was soon followed by a second massive bomb blast at a nearby house, and resulted in the British Army’s greatest loss of life in a single incident during the Northern Ireland Troubles. Now a retired officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), as the British police body in Northern Ireland was then known, has told an official government inquiry that the Irish government refused to collaborate with the investigation into the Warrenpoint ambush, and even ordered its senior police officers to distance themselves from it. The man, who testified behind closed doors through a video link from Belfast, cannot be named and is instead referred to in tribunal documents as ‘Witness 68’. All that is known about him is that he is a retired detective and retired from the RUC with a rank of Deputy Assistant Chief Constable. He told the Smithwick Tribunal that the government of the Republic of Ireland instructed its intelligence and law enforcement personnel to view the Warrenpoint ambush as a political crime and to abstain from the British-led criminal investigation into the killings. Consequently, in April 1980, when British RUC officials met with senior officers from the Garda’s (Irish police) Criminal Intelligence Division in Dublin, the Irish delegation informed British officials that the Irish Prime Minister, Jack Lynch, had given specific instructions that “no assistance would be given to the RUC”. Subsequently, the RUC discovered that a site located in the Republic of Ireland, which the British suspected had been used to detonate the bomb that exploded a few yards away at Warrenpoint, had been destroyed before forensic teams were able to examine it. After four high-level meetings in Dublin, Garda officers finally told RUC investigators that “nothing further would be released” about the ambush, and that they should “not come back”. The Smithwick Tribunal is an official judicial inquiry into the 1989 killing by the Provisional IRA of two police officers of the RUC. In the course of the inquiry, its mission has somewhat broadened to include allegations of collusion between the Provisional IRA and Irish government institutions, including the Garda. At the end of the testimony by Witness 68, Michael Durak, who represents the Garda commissioners at the Tribunal, said that the evidence was “of no relevance to the tribunal but was a headline grabber”.

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