British intelligence officer gives evidence behind closed doors

Smithwick tribunal

A former British intelligence officer is appearing at the Smithwick tribunal behind closed doors because his evidence covers national security issues.

Former Army intelligence officer Ian Hurst (also known as Martin Ingram) worked for the British Army’s Force Intelligence Unit (FRU) in Northern Ireland for three years during his career as an army intelligence officer.

Tribunal barrister Ms Mary Laverty described the FRU as “a British Army core unit in Northern Ireland, recruiting, developing and controlling army human intelligence assets”.

Mr Hurst spent three years working with FRU, later renamed the Joint Services Group.

The tribunal is examining allegations of garda collusion in the 1989 IRA killings of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

Mr Hurst’s evidence will be read into the transcript in public at a later date, after tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Smithwick reviews it to redact any mention of individuals who could face a potential threat to “life and limb or indeed to State security”, tribunal barrister Ms Mary Laverty said.

A similar formula was agreed last year before the tribunal heard evidence from former British Army Brigadier Ian Lisles concerning signals intelligence gathering by Army watchtowers along the order.

Lt Col Paul Hockley, a senior legal advisor with the British Ministry of Defence, was allowed into the tribunal for Mr Hurst’s evidence.

Legal teams representing the Garda Commissioner and the PSNI, three named former Garda sergeants, former British agent Peter Keeley (also known as Kevin Fulton), Belfast republican Freddie Scappaticci and the Breen and Buchanan families are also present to hear Mr Hurst’s evidence.