Smithwick Tribunal: Unnamed Garda officer 'was IRA source'

Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were murdered in 1989

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The PSNI has been accused of doing "a shameful injustice" to a former garda for only revealing key intelligence to a Dublin tribunal in its "dying days".

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Irish police collusion in the murders of two RUC officers.

Five items of intelligence were presented to it by PSNI Chief Supt Roy McComb on Wednesday.

Some claimed a Garda officer previously not associated with the tribunal gave the IRA information on the two RUC men.

The tribunal was established in 2005 to investigate allegations of Irish police (Garda)/IRA collusion in the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The officers - the most senior to be murdered during the Troubles - were shot dead in south Armagh as they returned from a meeting with Irish police at Dundalk Garda station in March 1989.

'Officer paid off'

Det Chief Supt McComb described the information he presented on Wednesday as accurate and reliable.

The detective said the information had come to light since the tribunal had been established and that it came from "multiple sources". However, he was not in a position to elaborate further on the intelligence or to explain why the information had been withheld until now.

The collusion allegations have been focused on three former detective sergeants in Dundalk - Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey.

The intelligence revealed on Wednesday morning stated that none of those officers were involved in the murders of the two RUC officers, but that another garda had been paid "a considerable amount of finance" for passing information to the IRA regarding the officers.

The legal representative for Mr Corrigan said the PSNI had "hung Owen Corrigan out to dry" by revealing an RUC document from 1985 that named his client as someone who had colluded with the IRA, but failing to reveal until now the other intelligence.

Four other items of intelligence were presented to the tribunal by PSNI Det Chief Supt Roy McComb.

The second piece claimed that the same garda, now retired, who was involved in the murders of Ch Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan, also provided information to the IRA in relation to County Louth farmer Tom Oliver.

He was tortured and murdered by the IRA in 1991, because the organisation believed he was a garda informant.

'Criminal helped IRA'

A third and fourth item also suggested an unnamed garda officer played a role in the murders of the RUC officers, as did a criminal from the border area.

And the final piece of intelligence stated that a former garda officer, Jim Lane, based in Dundalk, frequently expressed concerns that fellow officers Finbarr Hickey, Leo Colton and Owen Corrigan "had unethical relationships with PIRA members in the border area".

However, the tribunal heard that Mr Lane did not express the same view when giving evidence to the tribunal.

The legal representative for the Breen family John McBurney, said "the newly introduced intelligence raises many concerns and opens up additional lines of enquiry at a very late stage indeed.

"We now have a truly bewildering and alarming array of collusion pointers. Urgent work will be needed to unravel the tangled strands now exposed," he said.

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