Barrister says ex-garda was ‘a source ripe for the picking’ by the IRA

Smithwick tribunal

A barrister representing the PSNI has said that a retired garda detective sergeant was “a source ripe for the picking” by the IRA.

Barrister Mr Mark Robinson said that in the late 1980s, Dundalk detective Mr Owen Corrigan was “a source that was ripe for the picking” by the IRA.

“That is not correct, that is an insult to my integrity” Mr Corrigan said.

Mr Robinson also said that given his position, knowledge and contacts, Mr Corrigan was perfect source for the IRA.

“I was not. I find that deeply offensive,” Mr Corrigan said. “I spent all my life saving lives.”

“It would have been easy for me to keep my head down, and then you wouldn’t be casting aspersions on me.”

When Mr Corrigan asked if the PSNI was accusing him of being an IRA source, Mr Robinson replied: “Well let me answer you, I have the luxury of asking questions, you have to answer.”

Mr Jim O’Callaghan SC, representing Mr Corrigan, said if this was the PSNI belief, it should be put to the witness. “I am unsure what is the attitude of the PSNI to Mr Corrigan,” he said.

“I should not have to reassure my learned friend of what my position is,” Mr Robinson said to the tribunal chairman.

Mr Robinson also said it was “a disgrace” that Mr Corrigan had only submitted one intelligence report per month in 1989, the year in which two senior RUC officers were killed by the IRA as they returned from a security meeting in Dundalk garda station.

“I don’t accept that,” Mr Corrigan replied.

The tribunal is looking at allegations that information about the movements of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, was passed to the IRA.

Mr Corrigan has told the tribunal that he was sidelined in the mid-1980s, and lost his “power base” when additional detectives were drafted into the border area following the signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement.

“The changes were brought about because Margaret Thatcher tried to impose a certain regime along the border,” Mr Corrigan said. “The change was an implementation of the British Army view of what could be done to solve the problem.”

“But things were not as simple as that. We were not [dealing with] a military problem.

“They were attempting to solve the problem by military means.”

Mr Corrigan also said he would not share any intelligence source he developed with other officers, and had not passed them on when he retired in 1991.

“I wouldn’t give a source to anyone,” he said. “I’d be letting down the source apart from anything else.”

“You impeded the flow of intelligence to An Garda Síochána by failing to pass on your sources,” Mr Robinson said.

“No, sure I was retiring from the force, why would I pass on my source to anyone?” Mr Corrigan answered.

Mr Corrigan also said he had “saved more lives than any member”, and had “brought the bomb campaign to an end in Belfast” by travelling to Newry and persuading a suspect arrested by the RUC to talk. This had led to the discovery of a major IRA store, after which “the bombing in Belfast dropped off to a trickle.”

And he said that he did not make a statement to gardai after he was kidnapped and interrogated by the IRA in 1995, explaining:”My wife, my dear wife who I lost, she asked me, pleaded with me not to make a statement. She is the only person in the world I respected.”

But he said he had spoken with Sean Gethins, a detective from Dundalk, about what had happened during his interrogation.