‘I was a gobshite’ – ex-garda

Smithwick tribunal

A former Garda sergeant has said he was a “gobshite” and his life was ruined because he signed false passport application forms at the request of a retired colleague.Photo: Smithwick tribunal of inquiry

Former sergeant Finbarr Hickey pleaded guilty in the Special Criminal Court to signing fraudulent passport application forms, and jailed for 12 months.

“I lost my job, the house, the pension, everything over it. It did ruined my life,” Mr Hickey said.

When arrested in Dundalk in 1998, he told detectives he has been asked to sign the forms by a colleague, retired sergeant Leo Colton. Mr Colton denied this, and was never charged with an offence, although a file was sent to the DPP.

“He [Colton] has effectively ruined my life, he’s still getting his garda pension, I’m not,” Mr Hickey said.

One of the passports was later recovered from IRA member Jimmy Fox, whose photograph had been circulated to Garda stations at the time because he was wanted for questioning.

“I should have known better but I was just a gobshite and I signed it,” Mr Hickey said.

Mr Hickey signed the application forms in 1996, while serving as a sergeant in Hackballscross, Co Monaghan.

But PSNI barrister Mark Robinson said Mr Hickey pretended to be stupid when it suited him.

The lawyer said “any reasonable person would have known” the passports were for the IRA, and Mr Hickey would have known this.

The PSNI barrister said Hickey’s evidence was “a nonsense”, and that he “knew fine rightly” who the passports were for.

Mr Hickey said he just thought he was doing a favour for a friend.

And barrister Eamonn Coffey, who represents former sergeant Leo Colton, said Mr Hickey had a capacity when under pressure to make inventions to suit his situation.

The tribunal is looking at allegations of Garda collusion in the March 1989 IRA ambush which led to the deaths of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.

Mr Hickey said he had little memory of the day to two RUC officers were killed, except that the chief superintendent in Dundalk had gone missing the same day and couldn’t be located for a while when news of the ambush reached the station.

He said he did not know anything about RUC intelligence reports read into the record at the tribunal yesterday (Tuesday 1 May) stating he was passing information to the IRA.

Questioned by the tribunal chairman, Mr Hickey said he never signed any other forms at the request of other Garda colleagues during his time in the force.

The tribunal resumes on Tuesday.

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