24 April 2006

Collusion tribunal set to call on journalists

Sunday Life

23 April 2006

THE Dublin-based tribunal investigating the IRA murders of two senior RUC officers could be on a collision course with journalists over the disclosure of sources.

The Smithwick Tribunal into the IRA border killings of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan wants to interview journalists who have written articles alleging Garda collusion in the killings.

But it is understood that one journalist has already refused point blank to disclose his sources to the inquiry.

Last month Justice Peter Smithwick and his legal team began their investigations into the murder of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan, who were ambushed by IRA gunmen in Co Louth as they were returning from a meeting with senior Garda in Dundalk.

Informed sources in Dublin confirmed the Smithwick Tribunal would be contacting journalists.

"The Tribunal has identified several journalists who have promoted the collusion theory in stories about the Breen and Buchanan murders," said the source.

"The Tribunal will push the journalists to either identify their sources or to ask the source to contact the Smithwick legal team in person."

The source confirmed one Northern Ireland journalist had already been approached by the Tribunal and asked to reveal his sources.

"The guy told them he wouldn't reveal or approach any source. He told them he was not an intelligence-gathering source for the Tribunal."

The source said the Smithwick Tribunal was heading for confrontation with journalists should it insist on the disclosure of sources.

It follows similar controversy at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, when two senior journalists were threatened with prison for steadfastly protecting the identity of former soldiers who had co-operated in a series of Channel 4 News reports on the fatal shootings in 1997.

In what is regarded as a landmark ruling, Lord Savillle, the chairman of Inquiry, finally announced in January 2004 that he would not take action for contempt against ITN or the journalists concerned, Alex Thomson and Lena Ferguson.

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