Northern Ireland

Smithwick Tribunal: Senior gardai 'passed information to IRA'

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

The Smithwick Tribunal has been told of PSNI intelligence suggesting that senior gardai, at a rank more senior than detective sergeant, were passing information to the IRA.

The Dublin tribunal is investigating allegations of garda collusion in the murders of two senior RUC officers.

Twelve strands of PSNI intelligence, previously disclosed in private, has been read into the public record.

The intelligence is graded as "accurate and reliable".

Among the intelligence is the suggestion that a senior IRA figure "had several" garda officers passing information to the IRA.

It is suggested that the garda officers were at a rank more senior than detective sergeant.

The tribunal also heard that the information that led to the 1987 IRA murder of Lord Justice Gibson "emanated from" a Garda officer.

The intelligence also suggests

  • That the IRA "traditionally obtained extremely good intelligence from Dundalk Garda Station"
  • The double agent Kevin Fulton received information regarding the murders of the RUC officers "from a PIRA member linked to a senior PIRA figure".
  • The convicted IRA bomb maker Patrick 'Mooch' Blair "stated he was actually engaged in a separate operation at the time of the murders", and he "confirmed that there was a Garda spy" involved.
  • In 2011 a "senior PIRA member confided to an associate their personal fears" concerning the tribunal, "particularly that Garda personnel that were previously under PIRA's control would potentially highlight the level of co-operation previously provided".

The intelligence also suggests that in late 2011 "a senior member of the PIRA, Patsy O'Callaghan, commented to his knowledge" that the former detective garda sergeant Owen Corrigan "had no time for the IRA but was a gangster who was out for money".

Owen Corrigan is one of three former garda officers under the spotlight at the tribunal.

Mr Corrigan denies all allegations of collusion.

One of the intelligence items disclosed suggests that Mr Corrigan engaged in corrupt activity targeting criminals and was motivated by greed. The intelligence also suggests that he did provide sensitive information to PIRA and that he did so "for reasons of self preservation".

The intelligence also suggests

  • That a senior PIRA member revealed he was responsible for the murder of John McNulty in 1989 after someone informed the IRA that Mr McNulty was meeting with RUC officers.
  • "Sinn Fein/PIRA members remain concerned that the Smithwick Tribunal continues to disclose possible damaging information" relating to the murder of Tom Oliver.
  • "Intelligence indicates that a senior PIRA Army Council member was directly involved in ordering the murder of Tom Oliver. The senior PAC (provisional army council) member had been approached by several PIRA members and others requesting that Tom Oliver not be killed. Despite these requests the senior PAC member directed that Tom Oliver be executed."

Tom Oliver, a County Louth farmer, was murdered by the IRA in 1991.

The tribunal heard that the "live intelligence" is a direct result of investigations into dissident republican groups.  

During cross-examination, Mr Harris acknowledged the PSNI had not passed the intelligence onto gardai but denied a decision was made by the PSNI or MI5 not to share the information with the tribunal.

Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the garda commissioner, admitted that the Garda commissioner was "shocked" to learn that the intelligence had not been shared.

The assistant chief constable was asked if he was aware of the allegation that a former RUC Catholic officer may have been involved in setting up his colleagues.

Mr Harris said there was "no intelligence whatsoever to substantiate that allegation".

The tribunal chairman, Judge Peter Smithwick, has adjourned public hearings in order for the tribunal to resume its investigative work.

The new intelligence was unexpectedly presented to the tribunal in July and September.


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