Witness rejects Smithwick questions

Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 01:00

A former detective based in Dundalk has objected to being asked questions about his finances at the Smithwick Tribunal.

Owen Corrigan said he resented that his “private affairs” were being investigated, and he questioned the relevance of how he financed a number of properties in Louth and Meath.

He also told Justin Dillon SC for the tribunal that questions relating to his property dealings were “an outrageous abuse of the tribunal”.

Mr Dillon told the Judge Peter Smithwick there were two reasons Mr Corrigan’s finances were relevant.

Firstly, it was in the tribunal’s interest to know if Mr Corrigan’s income matched his expenditure, he said.

Secondly, he recalled the judge had been told by Mr Corrigan’s senior officer, former chief superintendent Richard Cotterell, that he could be a security risk “because of his greed”.

Mr Dillon asked Mr Corrigan how he had bought a derelict property in Navan in 1975 for £5,000. He recalled that Mr Corrigan has previously given evidence that he bought a property in Dundalk in1983 for £19,000, when at the time his salary was just £18,000 per year.

Mr Dillon recalled Mr Corrigan had claimed he financed the latter property with a deposit funded through “through savings”.

Mr Corrigan again questioned the relevance of his private finances being investigated by the tribunal. He told Mr Dillon he had received some money from “family”, adding a family member had passed away. He also acknowledged receiving some money from an insurance policy relating to a fire.

Mr Corrigan said the deaths of two RUC officers that are being investigated by the tribunal had taken place as a result of the men being followed “for two months” by the Provisional IRA. He said the IRA would not have needed “a mole in the gardaí” to assassinate the RUC men.

Chief supt Harry Breen and supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush minutes after leaving a meeting in Dundalk Garda station in March 1989. The tribunal is investigating allegations that members of the Garda or other employees colluded with the IRA in the killings.

Jim Callaghan SC, for Mr Corrigan, also questioned the relevance of questioning his client on his finances. He told Judge Smithwick the questioning “bordered on illegal”.

However, Judge Smithwick said Mr Dillon’s questions “are perfectly appropriate”.

He said the finances of Mr Corrigan are “very relevant”.

The judge - who is the sole member and chairman of the tribunal - said Mr Corrigan may wish the questions focus on his self-described role as the “jewel in the crown” of the Garda fight against the IRA, but he would have to answer Mr Dillon’s questions.

The tribunal is continuing.