Border cop will not name IRA informant

Smithwick tribunal

A senior garda in charge of border security during the 1980s told the Smithwick tribunal he was not prepared to name an IRA informant to told him that his NI counterpart could be shot.Photo of Smithwick tribunal

“There is a possibility that at some stage he might be got if I did that,” retired chief superintendent Tom Curran told the inquiry into garda collusion claims.

Curran was the border superintendent in charge of cross border liaison for the Louth-Monaghan division between 1981 and 1989.

He said he wrote a letter to the assistant commissioner of Crime & Security – the Garda anti-terrorism branch – after his source told him in mid-1988 that RUC Superintendent Bob Buchanan would be shot.

“I said I received reliable information and that’s as far as it went,” he said.

But he said he would not reveal the name of his source to the tribunal in public or private.

“I would have to claim privilege,” Curran told the chairman.

Barrister Jim O’Callaghan said the informant could help the tribunal with evidence that the March 1989 IRA attack in which Buchanan died along with his superior Chief Superintendent Harry Breen was planned months in advance.

O’Callaghan’s client Owen Corrigan, a former Garda detective, has been named as a possible IRA mole. He denies the allegation.

Curran also told the inquiry that Buchanan had told him on an earlier occasion that there were concerns in the RUC about Corrigan.

“He told me that the RUC had information that detective sergeant Owen Corrigan in Dundalk was unnecessarily close with the IRA and the RUC were concerned about it,” Curran said. But he agreed he had no evidence or information beyond what Buchanan had told him.

He said Buchanan could provide no more details, and he got the impression the RUC was just passing on information he had been given.

Days later, Curran met with Eugene Crowley, the assistant commissioner at Crime & Security, and told him what Buchanan had said.

Curran said that when he went to Crowley’s office, the assistant commissioner was “reading a file”, and did not look up until he had passed on the information.

Crowley then asked him how things were going in Monaghan, but did not address the information he had just been told.

“I quickly got the impression he didn’t want to hear,” Curran said.

The tribunal heard that Crowley died “literally days” after Curran told them about the information he passed on, and it’s investigators were unable to ask the former commissioner what was done as a result of the reports.

Curran also said he did not place a copy of the information about a threat to Buchanan’s life in his chief superintendent’s office in Monaghan, as the senior officer was “lax” in protecting confidential paperwork.

“I didn’t think it was suitable to have copies of intelligence reports thrown about the table for everybody to read.”