Myers tells tribunal he will not reveal sources

 

NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST Kevin Myers has told the Smithwick Tribunal he will not reveal the identity of sources behind a March 2000 article.

However, Myers agreed with a suggestion from Dara Hayes, for the tribunal, that he would invite his sources to consider if they could assist the tribunal themselves.

The article, part of the Irishman’s Diary column in The Irish Times, alleged an IRA mole in Dundalk Garda station had been responsible for the deaths of at least 14 people.

The agreement that he would invite his sources to assist the tribunal came after robust exchanges throughout the day between Myers and lawyers for the Garda Síochána and for former Dundalk Garda sergeant Leo Colton.

Myers agreed yesterday with Dermott McGuinness SC, for the Garda, that his article was “flawed” in that it ascribed assistance in the killings to a single mole, whom he believed to be Sgt Colton.

He said he had initially not realised his sources had referred to two gardaí, Mr Colton and Det Sgt Owen Corrigan, but he said he was not responsible for odium attaching to either garda, as his column had not named either one.

He said he had made reference in a subsequent Garda interview to as many as six IRA moles and a “cell”. However, he told Mr McGuinness these numbers were arbitrary and said Garda notes of his interview may not accurately reflect his conversation during the interview.

Questioned as to why he had never mentioned a former republican terrorist as a source of the column, in the interview with gardaí, he said he may have been protecting his sources.

Asked by Eamon Coffey, for Mr Colton, why the accusations had not been put to Mr Colton to give the sergeant a chance to defend himself, Myers replied it would not be “a useful exercise to my mind to ask a man who wasn’t named in an article if he was the man not named in the article”.

Myers complained to both Mr McGuinness and Mr Coffey that they were asking him about matters outside anything he had written or were in his knowledge.

To Mr McGuinness he said: “Are you going to go through a series of questions to show how little Kevin Myers knows? If my being here is merely an opportunity to belittle me, then that is not the respect I deserve.”

Later he told Mr Coffey he did not accept basic journalistic standards had been breached. He had given his information in good faith and while his column may have been flawed, he had done “the best I could in the circumstances I was in”.

Myers asked: “How many times do you want me to say it was flawed – do you want me to commit professional suicide, would that satisfy you?”

The tribunal will not hold public hearings next week.