Value of ex-garda's anti-subversive work questioned
THE USEFULNESS of intelligence information provided by a Garda detective who claimed to be the “jewel in the crown” of the force’s anti-subversive activity was questioned by a lawyer at the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday.
Former detective Owen Corrigan told the tribunal the work of the Dundalk Garda in combating the IRA and the INLA was “terrifying and frightening” and deserved to be called “heroic”.
In response to questions from Justin Dillon SC, for the tribunal, Mr Corrigan said it had been alleged that he had been missing from duty on the night Warrenpoint businessman and grain smuggler John McAnulty had been tortured and killed by the IRA. He said the allegation had been made by his superior officer in Dundalk, Chief Supt John Nolan.
But he said there was “highly explosive informer material that shows why I was missing”.
Mr Dillon said the tribunal would come to that “tomorrow”.
Mr Corrigan’s evidence to the tribunal continues this morning.
Earlier the former detective said that on a cold evening in the 1980s he had been detailed to oversee the security of Peter Robinson, who was then travelling back to the North from the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.
Mr Corrigan said the car bearing Mr Robinson, his wife Iris and a driver became stuck in the snow near the Bull Ring in Drogheda. Fearing for their safety, he had warned them to remain in the car while he pushed it off sheets of ice.
Mr Corrigan provided Garda headquarters with up to 103 “C77” intelligence reports per year between 1974 and 1989.
He said that, particularly around 1982, there were a number of general elections in short succession and Sinn Féin TDs were elected in Co Louth and Co Meath.
He said there were also rallies connected with hunger strikes at about this time and there were fears that subversives would take over the State. He said “these people felt they had the electorate behind them” and people were going about Dundalk giving the impression they were “about to seize power”.
He told Mr Dillon how he phoned headquarters to tell senior gardaí that Robert Nairac of the British army had been killed by the IRA, having been hit with a fence post while attempting to escape.
He said local IRA activists had to seek permission from the officer in command of the IRA in Dundalk to “execute” Nairac.
However Mr Dillon put it to him that a witness would give evidence that Mr Corrigan had nothing to do with security arrangements for Mr Robinson’s party.
He said a number of Mr Corrigan’s intelligence reports comprised Mr Corrigan telling headquarters about searches and finds.
These were Mr Corrigan telling the Garda about what the Garda was already doing, Mr Dillon said.