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Smithwick Tribunal: Former minister disputes evidence about Jack Lynch

Gerry Collins, who was Jack Lynch’s minister for justice, disputes a former RUC officer’s claims that Lynch ordered no assistance.

Gerry Collins served as Minister for Justice during 1977 and 1981, and again between 1987 and 1989.
Gerry Collins served as Minister for Justice during 1977 and 1981, and again between 1987 and 1989.
Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

A FORMER MINISTER who served under Jack Lynch has written to the Smithwick Tribunal to dispute comments made by an RUC officer yesterday than Lynch had ordered Gardaí not to assist in the inquiries of a bombing which killed 19 people.

An unnamed former officer, known only as Witness 68, gave evidence to the Tribunal yesterday stating that Lynch, as Taoiseach, had ordered that no assistance be given to officers investigating a bombing at Narrow Water in August 1979.

That bombing killed 19 people, including 18 British soldiers and one civilian, and marked the largest single loss of British army lives during the Northern Irish Troubles.

The officer, who had been investigating the bombing, said his final meeting with Gardaí had ended badly, with a senior Garda official at the time stating that Jack Lynch had declared the bombing “a political crime” and directed that “no assistance [be] given to the RUC”.

This morning, former justice minister Gerry Collins wrote to the tribunal solicitor to rebut the officer’s claims, saying the suggestion that Lynch had ordered Gardaí not to co-operate with inquiries was “completely incorrect”.

“Jack Lynch was vehemently opposed to the IRA’s campaign of violence, and he sought to ensure that there was co-operation between the Garda Síochana and the RUC in order to combat that threat to both parts of the island,” he wrote.

Collins said he would be happy to attend the Tribunal to offer his side of accounts, and pointed out that Witness 68′s evidence was based on a meeting with former assistant Garda commissioner Patrick McLaughlin.

Although I did not attend this meeting, I think the actual views of Jack Lynch towards IRA violence ought to be publicised by the Tribunal… as you are aware, when I gave evidence I was not asked any questions on this matter.

He adds:

Jack Lynch and his immediate family have passed away and there is no-one there to defend his name and good honour. The evidence given by Witness 68 has received significant prominence in the media. It shall remain there indefinitely, irrespective of the conclusions in the Chairman’s final report.

I think the memory and honour of Jack Lynch deserve that someone who knew him and worked with him intimately during these troubled times should be asked to give evidence before the Tribunal. I believe I am the most appropriate person.

The tribunal continues in Smithfield.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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