Ex-garda says he had not known of murders

Thu, Jun 21, 2012, 01:00

SMITHWICK TRIBUNAL:THE MURDER of two RUC officers in March 1989 as they returned from a visit to Dundalk Garda station had been planned by the IRA since the previous Christmas, the Smithwick Tribunal has been told.

Former Det Sgt Owen Corrigan, who was based at Dundalk Garda station at the time, told Judge Peter Smithwick that that period held the “most difficult and troubled years of our history”, with IRA and Sinn Féin agents and double agents rife in the Co Louth town.

He said 25 per cent of all Sinn Féin members and some of the “highest echelons of the IRA” were informers working for the British army or the RUC. He said they were providing details on each other and had “no loyalty”.

In combating hundreds of subversives based in Dundalk at the time, Mr Corrigan said he reported directly to Garda headquarters, where he acknowledged he had a “power base” with commissioners and assistant commissioners of the time. He said he was valued by Garda headquarters for the quality of information he supplied.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush as they returned from a meeting at Dundalk Garda station in March 1989.

The tribunal is investigating suggestions a Garda member or members colluded with the IRA in the killings.

Justin Dillon SC for the tribunal asked whether Mr Corrigan’s intelligence reports had ever outlined the risk to the RUC men. Mr Corrigan said he did not know in advance of the “execution”. He said he was told of the planning process afterwards by his sources.

Mr Corrigan told Mr Dillon an RUC intelligence document that alleged he had been “keeping the boys informed” on the movement of security services was “the greatest load of waffle”. Mr Dillon said the source of the intelligence information, Warrenpoint businessman John McAnulty, had subsequently been abducted, tortured and murdered by the IRA.

Mr Corrigan said Mr McAnulty’s information was hearsay, something he heard or “gossip”.

Under cross-examination by Mr Dillon, he rejected the evidence of Sunday Times journalist Chris Ryder that he had offered to supply Mr Ryder with stories in return for money. He said he had been told by the late Brian Fitzsimons of the RUC that Mr Ryder was an MI5 British agent. Mr Dillon said Mr Ryder denied this.

Mr Corrigan will possibly return to give more evidence on Friday, June 29th. The tribunal will sit again tomorrow.