Lawyers challenge Myers claims

Smithwick tribunal

Lawyers for the garda commissioner and a retired sergeant have challenged evidence by columnist Kevin Myers that a statement he gave to senior officers about an article on collusion with the IRA was inaccurate.Photo: Smithwick tribunal of inquiry

In March 2000 Mr Myers wrote an article in which he said an IRA mole within Dundalk Garda station leaked information which led to the deaths of RUC officers chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan as they returned from a visit to Dundalk Garda station eleven years earlier.

The article also said the mole leaked information which led to several other deaths.

Mr Myers said the article was based on a book by British journalist Toby Harnden, and conversations with two sources, a retired Garda and a former IRA member.

Mr Diarmuid McGuinness SC, representing the garda commissioner, asked Mr Myers if he could hand over notes he had taken in preparing the article. He said that he wrote over 200 columns each year of over 1000 words, and could not keep track of the paperwork this generated.

Mr Myers said that his garda source named retired sergeant Leo Colton as the IRA mole.

“The guard assured me that he had very good information from within the force that Colton was giving information,” Mr Myers said.

“He was certain that the information he was giving me was correct.”

Mr Myers said his second source, a former IRA man, was reluctant to name the mole on the telephone, but gave him the initial “C”. Mr Myers assumed this was Mr Colton, but later came to believe it referred to another sergeant, Mr Owen Corrigan.

Both Mr Colton and Mr Corrigan deny any allegations of collusion or leaking information. Mr Myers was previously cross-examined by Mr Corrigan’s legal team, and returned to complete his evidence yesterday.

Mr Myers said that notes of a Garda interview following his article were incomplete, and that an hour long conversation took place before a series of questions and answers were written down which “distilled” the conversation.

He said the notes reflected the the “spirit” of the interview, but he would not have signed them if he had known they would be the basis of an inquiry by Canadian judge Peter Cory into collusion allegations.

“It is not accepted in any sense that what was recorded was inaccurate,” Mr McGuionnes said.

The columnist said it was an “imperfect” record, as the Garda officers were not trained stenographers.

“I know these men were acting in good faith. It didn’t enter my head that eleven years later I would be interrogated about every single sentence,” Mr Myers said.

But he agreed that he had initialled each page of the interview notes, and that each answer was his.

“Everything that I signed was written in the spirit of the occasion as a faithful summary of what I said,” he explained.

He said his duty as a journalist would not allow him to name his sources if asked by the tribunal.

Questioned by Mr Eamonn Coffey SC on behalf of Mr Colton, the journalist said that based on what his sources had told him, he believed he had the grounds to say there was a mole in Dundalk garda station.

He admitted there were “deficiencies” in the article he wrote, but said Gardai had since approached him and thanked him for what he had written. He said he had not contacted Mr Colton before publishing the article because “it would not be a useful exercise to ask a man who was not named in an article if he was the man not named in an article.”

And he said it was “extraordinary” that Garda witnesses at the tribunal had said they had no evidence of a mole when they gave evidence to the tribunal.

Questioned by tribunal barrister Mr Dara Hayes, Mr Myers told the tribunal that he would approach his sources again and ask them if they would be willing to tell what they knew to the tribunal.

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