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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 18:45 GMT
Tribunal into 1989 murders begins
Shooting scene
Two senior RUC officers were shot after meeting with the Garda
An inquiry into allegations a rogue Garda officer helped the IRA murder two senior RUC men has opened in Dublin.

Chief Superintendent Harry Breen was shot dead near Jonesborough in south Armagh in 1989, along with his colleague Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

In his opening statement, Judge Peter Smithwick expressed his sympathy to the Breen and Buchanan families.

He said the inquiry would investigate whether there was collusion in the "widest sense of the word".

That means he will also consider whether there was a failure to act to prevent the two officers being murdered.

The policemen were ambushed on the border after returning in an unmarked car from a meeting with the Irish police in Dundalk.

Judge Peter Smithwick is heading the tribunal
Judge Peter Smithwick is heading the tribunal

There have been suspicions that a police officer in the Republic may have tipped off the IRA about their movements.

The public inquiry was recommended by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory, as part of his report on several controversial killings which was presented to the British and Irish governments in 2003.

He said while the IRA did not need information from Irish police to murder the officers, two separate intelligence reports referred to a Garda leak.

'A keen interest'

At Friday's tribunal, a lawyer representing former Garda Special Branch officer Owen Corrigan stood up and said his client had been named by Jeffrey Donaldson in the House of Commons, under privilege, as having passed on information to the Provisional IRA that led to the killings.

This was a monstrous lie, the lawyer said and Mr Corrigan was now seeking legal representation.

Before adjourning the tribunal to a date yet to be fixed, Judge Smithwick said he would consider that request for legal representation.

Judge Smithwick is a former president of the Irish Republic's District Court.

He said he knew the families of the murdered officers were taking a keen interest in the proceedings.

Judge Peter Smithwick
Judge Peter Smithwick is heading the tribunal

However, it is not thought any relatives were present at the tribunal.

Ernie Telford, a solicitor for the Buchanan family said they hoped everyone cooperated with the investigation.

"So many questions about this tragedy remain unanswered. There are so many lingering suspicions," Mr Telford said.

The family have met Judge Smithwick and they know everything possible will be done by him to establish the full circumstances surrounding that fateful day in the back roads of south Armagh 17 years ago."

Public hearings are to be held in the weeks ahead.

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