Retired detective seeks leave to challenge Smithwick findings

Owen Corrigan ‘totally rejects’ findings that he told senior IRA operative about informant

Owen Corrigan: wants orders quashing and removing certain findings relating to him in the report of the Smithwick Tribunal.    Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Owen Corrigan: wants orders quashing and removing certain findings relating to him in the report of the Smithwick Tribunal. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 01:01


A retired Garda detective has launched a legal challenge to findings by the Smithwick Tribunal that he gave information to the IRA about a man whom it later murdered. Owen Corrigan contends the findings are “completely false and grossly damaging”.

Mr Corrigan “totally rejects” the findings that he told a senior IRA operative that the late Tom Oliver was a Garda informant shortly before Mr Oliver was abducted and murdered, his counsel told the High Court.

The application for leave to bring the judicial review challenge was made yesterday before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, who will rule today.

In his proceedings, Mr Corrigan wants orders quashing and removing certain findings relating to him in the report of the Smithwick Tribunal.

The tribunal was set up to inquire into the killing of senior RUC officers Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan by the IRA in March 1989.

The tribunal made no finding that Mr Corrigan was involved in collusion with the IRA in respect of their deaths.

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for Mr Corrigan, said Judge Peter Smithwick’s findings that Mr Corrigan had passed on information to the IRA about Mr Oliver shortly before he was murdered by the IRA in July 1991 were “completely false and grossly damaging” to his client.

Mr Corrigan wants orders quashing the tribunal’s findings he gave information to the IRA and had not co-operated with the tribunal by failing to provide it with details of his personal bank account. Judge Smithwick failed to consider a 77-page document containing details of his personal bank account, he claims.

In his final report, Judge Smithwick said he accepted evidence from Kevin Fulton, who said he worked for the British military’s intelligence unit in Northern Ireland. Mr Fulton’s evidence was that Mr Corrigan had provided information to Mooch Blair, a senior member of the IRA, in a Dundalk public house car park in 1991 concerning Mr Oliver.

As a result of this information, that he was an informant, Mr Oliver was murdered by the IRA, Mr Fulton said. Mr Corrigan had denied this allegation during his evidence to the tribunal.

In making that finding, the tribunal acted outside its terms of reference, which was to investigate the allegation of collusion in the death of the two RUC officers, Mr O’Callaghan said. The finding against Mr Corrigan was unreasonable and irrational and failed to take into account a number of factors including  that Mr Corrigan was on sick leave in 1991 and did not have access to sensitive information. Mr Fulton’s evidence was unreliable, unsustainable and inconsistent and evidence had been given by gardaí and members of the PSNI/RUC Mr Fulton was “an intelligence nuisance”, he added.

Judge Smithwick made the finding against Mr Corrigan based on Mr Fulton’s uncorroborated evidence alone, he added, without any comprehensive investigation by the tribunal into Mr Oliver’s death and having heard no evidence from those involved in the investigation of Mr Oliver’s murder.

Mr Corrigan was denied fair procedures because he was not given advance notice that any finding in respect of Mr Oliver’s death could be made against him, Mr O’Callaghan said.

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