British agent was a ‘spacer’, tribunal told

Smithwick tribunal

A version of this article appeared in the Irish Times on 23 July 2011.

A British agent whose evidence to the Cory inquiry led to a recommendation to establish a tribunal of inquiry was described as “a spacer” by a detective garda at the Smithwick tribunal.Photo of Smithwick tribunal

Detective garda Tom Fox was asked if he knew Peter Keeley by tribunal barrister Justin Dillon SC at the tribunal, set up to look at allegations of garda collusion in the deaths of two RUC officers returning from Dundalk in 1989.

“He was regarded as a spacer, a person who could not be trusted,” the detective told the inquiry.

Keeley also went by the names used the names McCann and Kevin Fulton, the tribunal heard.

Canadian judge Peter Cory based his recommendation to set up a tribunal looking at collusion claims in the deaths of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan on a statement by Keeley that he was told by an IRA commander that former detective sergeant Owen Corrigan was passing information to the paramilitaries.

Corrigan has described the allegation as a “monstrous lie”.

Fox said it was “beyond comprehension” that Sgt Corrigan would leak information, and said the IRA would be happy to blacken his name “because of his success in fighting terrorism.”

The detective worked with Corrigan in Dundalk garda station between 1978 and 1990.

He also said that he knew an individual called Mooch Blair, who was believed to be involved in subversive activities according to Garda intelligence.

Sergeant Donal Smith told the tribunal that he could not recall what warnings he had been given about detective sergeant Owen Corrigan when he was transferred to Dundalk station.

In an interview with tribunal investigators before public hearings began, he said he was told to “be careful” about the sergeant when he was moved to the station.

But he told tribunal barrister Mary Laverty SC that he could not remember the nature of any warning he received, or who had said it to him.

Sergeant Smith, who was a garda at the time, had joined the force in 1982, and was living in Co Cavan and commuting daily to Dundalk in 1989. His wedding was due in April 1989, and so he did not socialise or get to know other Gardai in Dundalk very well at the time, as he drove home each evening as soon as he finished work.

The sergeant agreed with Owen Corrigan’s barrister Darren Lehane that a warning could cover a wide variety of behaviour, from an individual who was”cranky and abrupt to ‘watch my back’ kind of country.”

The tribunal resumes Tuesday 26 July.