Shock for victim at Garda-IRA ‘collusion’ meeting with Simon Coveney

A victim of alleged Garda-IRA collusion believes that a meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has revealed Irish police never carried out a proper investigation into the murder of his brother .

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 9:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 10:08 pm
From left, Ken Funston (SEFF), John Sproule, Irish Foriegn Minister Simon Coveney and DUP MEP Diane Dodds pictured after their meeting in Dublin to discuss alleged Garda-IRA collusion in the murder of John's brother, Ian.

Ian Sproule, 24, was murdered by the IRA in Castlederg in 1991, a shooting which was widely condemned at the time. The IRA attempted to justify itself by showing a Garda intelligence file to a Londonderry newspaper which claimed he had been a member of the UVF, something his family has always rejected.

Ian’s brother, John, took part in what is thought to be an historic first today, a meeting between an Irish cabinet minister and a victim of alleged Garda-IRA collusion. However it left Mr Sproule deeply unhappy.

He said Mr Coveney told him that after the murder, Chief Supt – later Garda Commissioner – Noel Conroy interviewed over 100 Gardai about apparent collusion in the shooting.

But Mr Coveney told John that none of the Gardai were put under caution before being interviewed. This, John believes, shows that it was not a serious investigation.

“We heard from Mr Coveney that over 100 statements were taken. But as none of the officers were put under caution, I feel this was more of a box-ticking exercise than a serious investigation into how the IRA came to have a Garda file accusing my brother of being in the UVF.

“Mr Coveney also said this report has never been released and made no suggestion that he would let us see it. But if there is nothing to hide then why not give it to us?”

The existence of the report on Ian’s murder first came to light in 2012 under questioning of Mr Conroy at the Smithwick Inquiry into Garda-IRA collusion in Dublin.

Counsel for the inquiry, Mary Laverty, sharply criticised Mr Conroy for not volunteering the existence of his “major” collusion report when he had first appeared before the inquiry six months previously.

Also accompanying John to the meeting with Mr Coveney in Dublin yesterday was Advocacy Manager with the South East Fermanagh Foundation, Ken Funston, and DUP MEP Diane Dodds, both of whom lobbied Dublin for the meeting for years.

Mr Funston said: “Mr Coveney has promised to write to the Garda Ombudsman to ask why its dropped its probe into Ian’s murder two years ago without explanation.

“We also invited him to come and hear from other families who believe there may have been collusion in the murder of their loved ones.”

DUP MEP Diane Dodds pressed Mr Coveney for an independent investigation into Ian Sproule’s murder.

“The Sproules need answers from the state where it is alleged that their own police force supplied information to assist the IRA in carrying out such a vile atrocity,” she said.

“Not only do we need to see a swift response from the Ombudsman’s office in relation to this but the Irish government should move to set up an independent investigation into the issue of collusion with the IRA not just in this case but in a whole string of murders on both sides of the border.”