The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, has welcomed publication of the final report of the Smithwick Tribunal.

Minister Shatter said, "The Smithwick Tribunal was set up in 2005 to investigate suggestions of collusion by members of An Garda Síochána or other State employees in the murders by the Provisional IRA in 1989 of two RUC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan. The establishment of the Tribunal was the full honouring of the commitment which the Irish Government gave at Weston Park in relation to the establishment of inquiries. 

"I met with Judge Peter Smithwick this morning and he briefed me on his report and its conclusions. He informed me also that he met with the two officers’ families yesterday and outlined his findings to them. I expressed mine and the Government’s gratitude to Judge Smithwick for having undertaken this difficult task.

"Judge Smithwick was unable to find direct evidence of collusion in the killings. However, he concludes, on the balance of probabilities, that collusion did occur involving an unidentified member or members of An Garda Síochána. 

"The killings of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan on the afternoon of 20 March, 1989 were two stark examples of the brutality which pervaded this island for many dark years. Both left behind loving families, friends and colleagues. Even with the passage of 24 years and the positive developments which have taken place on the island since, our condemnation of their murder should be as strong today as it was then.

"For reasons outlined in the report published today, it has taken the Tribunal over 8 years to issue its report. I am well aware that this length of time must have placed great strain on the families of the two officers. But I hope that today's report will help them in their quest for the truth of what happened on that evil day and that it represents an important piece in the complex and inevitably disturbing jigsaw of trying to address the past.

"After many years' deliberations, it is right that the Tribunal report should now be considered in detail. I will be doing so with a view to presenting it to my colleagues in Government in the coming weeks. I expect too that the report will be fully debated in the Oireachtas.

"But even before that process is completed I believe that it is important to say immediately, on my own behalf and that of the Government, that I apologise without reservation for any failings identified in the report on the part of the State or any of its agencies.

"It is also right today to acknowledge that during the course of the troubles on this island An Garda Síochána in co-operation with their colleagues in Northern Ireland played a vital role in safeguarding the institutions of the State and protecting the people of these islands, sometimes at great cost to individual members. Nothing in the report should detract from that.

"I have no doubt that the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána down through the years would be as appalled as anyone that any member of the Force would betray them and the Irish people by offering assistance to terrorist organisations.

"Regrettably, to this day the Gardaí continue to have to confront the challenge p osed by paramilitary organisations who reject the democratic will of the Irish people. They have the full support of myself and the Irish Government in discharging that onerous task, in full co-operation with their colleagues in the PSNI."

3 December 2013