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Judge Peter Smithwick at the opening day of the tribunal in March 2006. Julien Behal/PA Archive/Press Association Images
Smithwick Tribunal

First evidence to be given in Smithwick Tribunal into murder of RUC officers

The duration of the tribunal, set up five years, ago has been the source of controversy.

THE SMITHWICK TRIBUNAL into allegations that members of the gardaí or the State colluded in the murder of two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers in 1989 will holds its first public session today.

This comes as the Northern Ireland Commission for Victims and Survivors expressed concern over the imposition of a deadline of November by the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter for a report from the tribunal, reports BBC News.

The tribunal, headed by Judge Peter Smithwick was set  up in 2005 but did not begin its formal process until March 2006.

It is examining allegations of garda or State collusion in the murder of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan in 1989.

The tribunal will this week begin hearing evidence from witnesses for the first time after Smithwick makes his opening statement today.

The tribunal has to date cost €8 million and the lack of information being disclosed has caused some controversy, reports the Irish Times.

Victims and Survivors Commissioner Patricia McBride has told the BBC that a time limit must not impact upon the tribunal’s independence and impartiality.

She was responding to a move by the Dáil last week to back a motion by Shatter to impose a November deadline on completion of the final report.

McBride said that the commission was seeking a meeting with the minister to clarify that resources are in place to complete the tribunal. Shatter has been criticised by opposition parties for imposing a “guillotine” on the work of the tribunal, according to the Irish Times.

RUC officers Breen and Buchanan were unarmed when they were killed in an IRA gun attack near the border village of Jonesborough in Co Armagh on 20 March 1989.

They were returning to Newry after meeting with gardaí across the border in Dundalk to discuss security issues. They were the highest ranking members of the RUC to be murdered during the Troubles.