Tribunal fed false intelligence

Smithwick tribunal

Deliberately false information has been given to the Smithwick tribunal in order to bring it to an early conclusion, according to a new PSNI intelligence report.Photo: Smithwick tribunal of inquiry

“Key PIRA members are aware that some testimony to the Tribunal is deliberately false and is intended to bring it to an early conclusion,” the Smithwick tribunal was told.

The intelligence was obtained by the PSNI within the last 12 months, detective chief superintendent Roy McComb told the inquiry, which is looking at allegations of Garda collusion in the deaths of two RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.

“The intelligence is considered to be reliable, credible and accurate,” Mr McComb said, presenting the summary of the intelligence to the inquiry.

The intelligence said the inquiry “has become a significant issue amongst leading republicans. ”

Members of the provisional IRA were “concerned that individuals associated with PIRA’s testimony to the tribunal will lead to other material coming to light,” the summary said.

“By this, these mean information about past members and leaks from An Garda Siochana. ”

As a result, the members were “anxious that the Tribunal should complete its work as soon as possible. ”

The report said information was provided to republicans since the 1970s by “a number of An Garda Siochana and Republic of Ireland customs officers”, often warnings of searches and arrests.

The document said that a “Garda Hickey’s name had been mentioned”, along with another person.

Former garda sergeant Finbar Hickey, who was convicted of providing false passport applications, is represneted before the tribunal. He denies allegations of collusion.

The intelligence said that the IRA had intended to kidnap and question Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan, in an operation involving members of South Armagh IRA.

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb said the chief constable has no position on whether there was garda collusion, and supported the tribunal in its efforts to uncover the truth.

“I want to make it clear that this witness has provided us with nothing more than an allegation,” said Ms Fionnuala O’Sullivan, who represents Mr Hickey.

“We can not say if it is hearsay, double hearsay, triple hearsay, gossip or innuendo.”

And Mr Michael Durack SC, who represents the garda commissioner, said the information had been “lobbed in” at the last minute, close to the end of the tribunal’s work.

A second intelligence report, which alleged Mr Hickey provided information on Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan, was later withdrawn by the source, and the PSNI could not rate it, Mr McComb said.

The information was provided to uniformed PSNI officers, but the source later denied it when questioned by members of CID.

Chief superintendent Diarmuid O’Sullivan said he was told by former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst (AKA Martin Ingram) that “approximately five” Garda officers along the border were supplying information to British intelligence agencies.

Mr O’Sullivan said the meetingt ook place in 2004 to discuss allegations in Mr Hurst’s book. He said he was aware of Mr Hurst’s security concerns before the confidential meeting, and was surprised when a report of the meeting later appeared in the Sunday Times.

Mr Hurst was not in a position to name anyone at the meeting, and was injuncted by MI5 not to talk to anyone except the Stevens Inquiry, chief superintendent O’Sullivan said.

Earlier, Garda detective chief superintendent Peter Kirwan said he would have kept a lookout for references to Owen Corrigan in Garda files after the former detective sergeant was named in the House of Commons by Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Corrigan denies allegations of collusion, which he has described as a “monstrous lie”.

Mr Kirwan said that he was also told Mr Corrigan’s name by author Toby Harnden when he travelled to the USA to interview him about allegations in his book “Bandit Country”.

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