Smithwick Tribunal: Owen Corrigan dismisses collusion claim

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

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No direct evidence exists to support claims a retired Irish police officer colluded with the IRA in the murders of two RUC officers, a tribunal has heard.

Former garda (police officer) Owen Corrigan was in the witness box for a 14th day at the Smithwick Tribunal.

The tribunal is inquiring into claims there was Garda collusion with the IRA in the murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

The officers were shot dead in south Armagh in March 1989.

They had just left a meeting with Irish police (Garda) officers at Dundalk Garda station.

Mr Corrigan was questioned by his own legal counsel Jim O'Callaghan on Monday morning.

Mr O'Callaghan made reference to a number of internal RUC documents concerning the publication of a book published in October 1999 by journalist Toby Harnden.

The book, Bandit Country, claimed that RUC Special Branch had intelligence to show that a garda in Dundalk had tipped off the IRA about the vist by Ch Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan to the station and that there was technical information to back this up.

Sources

According to the documents shown to the tribunal, the author of the book was sanctioned to receive information from the RUC, yet there was surprise at some of the claims contained within it.

In one of the reports marked 'secret' from Sept 2000, an RUC assistant chief constable said there was "no intelligence to substantiate the claims made by the author", regarding the deaths of Ch Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan.

Further RUC notes claim that the author had not checked the veracity of some of the information he had been given by an RUC source Mr Harnden later refused to name.

The journalist and author, who is now living in the United States, has refused to give evidence to the tribunal.

Following the book's publication, the MP Jeffrey Donaldson named Mr Corrigan as a Garda mole in the House of Commons.

Mr O'Callaghan told the tribunal there was no "direct evidence" against his client Mr Corrigan, "only indirect evidence".

The first source was former British agent Peter Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton, who said he was in an IRA man's house when word of the RUC officers' deaths came through, and it was claimed 'our friend' the garda had been involved.

Mr Keeley assumed this was a reference to Owen Corrigan.

The second source was British Army agent Ian Hurst, who said that he had been told by an Army Force Research Unit officer that Mr Corrigan had provided information to the IRA.

However, Mr O'Callaghan told the tribunal this claim had been "rubbished" by army officer Witness 82.

Mon Monday afternoon, former Dundalk garda Jim Lane returned to the witness box to give evidence.

Mr Lane was the subject of PSNI intelligence shown at the tribunal last week, which claimed he had expressed concerns about the "unethical relationship" his colleagues Owen Corrigan, Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton had with the IRA.

Mr Lane said he first became aware of the intelligence after it was revealed at the tribunal and that he had "no idea" that any unethical relationships existed.

He further stated that he was never aware of any adverse rumours concerning Mr Corrigan whom he had worked with since 1965.

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