Garda barrister accuses PSNI of ‘political agenda’

Smithwick tribunal

A barrister representing a former Garda accused of leaking information to the IRA has said that the PSNI had a “political agenda” to promote a collusion finding at the Smithwick tribunal.Photo: Smithwick tribunal of inquiry

Jim O’Callaghan SC said that PSNI counsel Mr Mark Robinson’s questioning sought to “undermine” some retired RUC officers while promoting the evidence of others at the collusion inquiry.

He said this is “clearly indicates a strategy being adopted at the inquiry by the PSNI seeking to promote a finding of collusion, promoting a political agenda”.

And he added that this was “shameful for a modern police force”.

Mr O’Callaghan represents retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan, who has described collusion allegations as a “monstrous lie.”

The tribunal was set up to look at allegations of garda collusions in the 1989 IRA killings of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, as they retuned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

The tribunal heard evidence from a retired RUC special branch officer identified as Witness 80, who described allegations against Mr Corrigan as “gossip”.

“I regarded him as a good police officer, a shrewd police officer,” Witness 80 said.

He said the “gossip” would surface from time to time during his years in the special branch based in Newry and Armagh, from the 1970s to mid 1980s.

In 1985 the officer transferred to Belfast.

“A lot of that gossip was coming from uniform branch, from people of a different religion to Mr Corrigan,” Witness 80 said.

The witness said he had not heard similar gossip about other Garda officers during his time in the border region.

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Former justice minister Gerry Collins has written to the Smithwick tribunal challenging the evidence of a senior RUC officer who said former taoiseach Jack Lynch “decreed” that gardai were not to cooperate with an RUC investigation into an IRA attack in which 18 British soldiers and a civilian died.

Mr Collins, who gave evidence to the tribunal last year, wrote to tribunal lawyers following evidence from a retired RUC deputy assistant chief constable identified as Witness 68, who said he was told about the taoiseach’s direction at an April 1980 meeting in Dublin castle.

The witness, who was a detective inspector at the time, was the lead investigator into the Narrow Water attack, near Warrenpoint, Co Down. He has also given evidence that a detonation site on the southern side of the border was not “obliterated”, destroyed potential evidence before forensics experts from Belfast could examine it.

He said he was told by “assistant commissioner McLaughlin” that the bomb ambush was “a political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC.”

Mr Collins said that as justice minister in the Lynch government he was “fully aware of Jack Lynch’s view of the IRA’s campaign of violence and, more particularly, his view of the bombings at Warrenpoint.

“Jack Lynch was vehemently opposed to the IRA’s campaign of violence and he sought to ensure that there was cooperation between the Garda Siochana and the RUC in order to combat the threat to both parts of the island,” Mr Collins wrote.

He said the taoiseach’s views towards IRA violence should be publicised at the tribunal, and he would be happy to return to give evidence if the tribunal wished to recall him.

“I think the memory and honour of Jack Lynch deserve that someone who knew him and worked with him intimately during these troubled times should be asked to give evidence before the tribunal,” Mr Collins wrote. “I believe I am the most appropriate person.”

The tribunal was set up to look at allegations of garda collusions in the 1989 IRA killings of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, as they retuned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

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