Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has described the decision by three former members of the IRA to give evidence to the Smithwick Inquiry as a “significant and unprecedented development.”
Teachta Adams said:
“The decision by three former members of the IRA to voluntarily give evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal is a significant and unprecedented development. This was the first time former members of the IRA have ever given evidence to an inquiry into an IRA action.
“In papers to be released today by the Tribunal it is clear that the three provided a series of comprehensive documents and held one minuted meeting with three senior lawyers representing the Tribunal at which they answered all of the questions put to them.
“The engagement between the three former volunteers and Smithwick is historically unparalleled.
“Clearly this would not have been possible but for the Tribunal creating the context to allow it. I commend this.
“Judge Peter Smithwick has expressed disappointment that the former volunteers did not give oral evidence. That is understandable from his perspective but hardly a surprise to the Tribunal.
“This was a decision for the three former members but it should be viewed in its context. This was the first time former members of the IRA have ever given evidence to an inquiry into an IRA action.
“It was historically unprecedented. They agreed to do so voluntarily and I understand they answered the questions put to them in a full and frank fashion. Their evidence will be published today and people will be able to judge for themselves the extent of their co-operation and whether it rebuts claims that there was some form of assistance or collusion with members of An Garda Siochána.”
The Sinn Féin leader also called on the Irish and British governments to invite in a reputable international organisation to establish an Independent International Truth Commission:
“In June 2006 I met the Smithwick Tribunal at their request.
“The Tribunal asked if Sinn Féin could facilitate an engagement with the IRA about the killing of the two RUC men and claims that this action was possible because of collusion took place with members of the Gardaí.
“We undertook to do our best. But we were mindful that the IRA in July 2005 left the stage and there could be no engagement with it.
“However, we discovered that former volunteers might be prepared to engage with the Smithwick Tribunal on a voluntary basis.
“A process was put in place to facilitate this. When this was achieved Sinn Féin stepped back and the process moved forward.
“The Sinn Féin leadership helped to facilitate this engagement because we sincerely believe there is a responsibility to assist families bereaved in the conflict if and when we can, though this may not be possible in all cases.
“Republicans are very conscious of the hurt and suffering which has been caused through conflict in our country.
“Sinn Féin believes that there needs to be an effective truth process for dealing with all legacy issues. The Weston Park agreement only dealt with six cases. One of these included a commitment by the British government to an inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. The British have reneged on that promise.
“There are many more families who seek truth and closure.
“Sinn Féin has repeatedly called on the British and Irish governments to invite in a reputable and independent international body to establish an Independent International Truth Commission which would be independent of any state, combatant groups, political parties, civil society and economic interests.
“It should have a remit to inquire into the extent and pattern of past violations as well as their causes and consequences and would be dependent on the full co-operation of all the relevant parties.
“Of course, such a process would not be easy. There are vested interests who do not want the truth and who will oppose the creation of a meaningful truth recovery process.
“For my part I would actively encourage republicans to co-operate with such a process.”