Tribunal hears Dundalk factory claim


A Government funded factory in Dundalk may have been the source of printed circuit boards used in bombs in the UK, the Smithwick Tribunal has been told. 

Chris Ryder a Northern security journalist and author told the tribunal that British security services were deeply frustrated by a lack of commitment on the part of the Southern authorities to deal with the IRA in the 1970s and early 1980s.

He said security sources in Scotland Yard in London had particularly expressed frustration over a factory owned by Mr James McCann in Dundalk which he was told "was of interest because of possible links with manufacturing bomb-making equipment used in London and Northern Ireland".

He said the factory made gaming machines and had been supported by the IDA. But he said security services in the UK told him circuit boards manufactured for the gaming machines may have been used as timers in bombs. He said that following an article he wrote in the Sunday Times revealing the British security services' concern about the factory, funding was pulled by the IDA.

Mr Ryder also said the UK authorities had expressed concerned that gelignite stolen from a factory at Enfield in Co Meath was repeatedly identified as a component in bombs.

What was seen as Irish Government resistance to extradition was a further source of frustration, as was an alleged refusal by the Irish to have joint Border posts manned by Irish and British army personnel.

He said relations between police forces North and South were such that many RUC officers frequently told him they would not trust many of the gardaí in stations south of the Border. He also claimed to have been told by a senior garda and RUC officers that leaks to paramilitaries from the gardai were a problem.

Mr Ryder told counsel for the tribunal Fintan Valentine he had heard the name of Det Sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk garda station being used in the context of someone who was not to be trusted. He said he met Mr Corrigan once, possibly in the mid-1970s in the La Mon hotel in Belfast when Mr Corrigan was in the company of RUC officers. He said at the meeting Mr Corrigan offered to give him information which could be useful for newspaper articles, but wanted to be paid. He said it was the first and last time he had been asked for money by a police officer.

The Smithwick Tribunal is inquiring into suggestions or Garda-IRA collusion in the assassination of two RUC officers in south Armagh in 1989. Chief supt Harry Breen and supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush minutes after leaving a meeting in Dundalk Garda Station.

At the start of Mr Ryder's evidence this morning, Mr Valentine told Judge Peter Smithwick two aspects of Mr Ryder's evidence would not be heard today. He said arrangements were being made to bring him back to give further evidence on another day.

Earlier, the leader Northern Ireland's Traditional Unionist Voice party Jim Allister said he planned to attend at the Smithwick Tribunal today "to listen to what is anticipated as significant evidence in the inquiry into IRA/Garda collusion".

The tribunal which is investigating suggestions of Garda collusion with the IRA in the killing of two RUC officers in 1989, has not publicly stated which witnesses are due to give evidence today.Mr Allister was travelling this morning and could not be contacted. Earlier this year he said of the Smithwick Tribunal: "Getting the truth on this issue is an imperative. It must not be compromised," he said in a statement.

"The murder of Harry Breen and Tom Buchanan has always raised deep suspicions of sinister collusion between the IRA and Garda officers in Dundalk station, with suggestions that one officer in particular was on the payroll of the IRA.

"The timing of the deaths raised their own suspicions in that a possible cross-border operation against [a known republican] was said to be linked to the series of visits by senior RUC personnel across the border. The identity of those on the IRA killing gang also carries its own intrigue."