Northern Ireland

‘Like talking to a wall’ - Family of IRA victim criticise Irish state over response to gardaí collusion claims

Family of Ian Sproule hit out after President Higgins condemned UK Troubles legacy legislation

Ian Sproule (24) was shot dead by the IRA outside his family home in Castlederg in 1991
Ian Sproule (24) was shot dead by the IRA outside his family home in Castlederg in 1991.

The family of a Co Tyrone man shot dead by the IRA has accused the Irish government of treating his life as if it was “worth nothing” by failing to act on claims the killers colluded with gardaí.

Ian Sproule (23), was murdered at his family’s farm in Castlederg after he returned from a night out in April 1991 and was ambushed by two gunmen.

The IRA later claimed that it had a garda intelligence document with a photo naming Mr Sproule as a UVF suspect, though there is no evidence he was involved with loyalist paramilitaries.

His family has said they have received no help from the Irish government over the years in calling for light to be shed on the collusion claims.

Mr Sproule’s brother John has criticised the Irish state for making demands on legacy from the British government while failing to address collusion claims involving gardaí.

His comments follow President Michael D Higgins criticising the UK’s controversial Troubles legacy legislation at this month’s memorial event for the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Garda collusion has been identified in the murders of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan near the border in south Armagh in 1989 by the Smithwick Tribunal.

During the tribunal, then-PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who is now Garda Commissioner, said he believed there had been a leak from the gardaí to the IRA in relation to Mr Sproule.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris condemned the disorder
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON (Niall Carson/PA)

Speaking to RTÉ, John Sproule said there is “no doubt there was collusion” in his brother’s murder.

“I’ve met Simon Coveney, Charlie Flanagan, the Garda Ombudsman, Micheál Martin and it’s like talking to a wall,” he said of his family’s attempts to get answers.

“They promised me everything that they could do to help me that they would, but until today still nothing.

“They have not dealt with legacy at all. Anybody who lived along the border during the Troubles will tell you that the Republic of Ireland played a big role, a lot of the attacks came from there and many IRA members lived there.

“The Irish Government needs to deal with legacy and to come clean.”

“My brother was an innocent civilian. The Irish Government can’t demand the British government to do legacy and then they don’t do it.

“Victims is across the board and to me the way they treated me, they treated me as like a second class citizen. And even worse when chatting to them now they think Ian’s life was worth nothing, and Ian’s life was worth a lot. It’s totally wrong.”

The Sproule family have called for the Irish government to set up an independent investigation into Ian’s killing.

They met with then-Taoiseach Micheál Martin in 2022, who a spokesperson said “listened carefully” to their concerns, adding Mr Martin “once again repeated his condemnation of the appalling murder” and urged anyone with information to come forward to gardaí or the PSNI.

Last year a new inquest was ordered into Mr Sproule’s murder.