Censored document ‘virtually useless’

Smithwick tribunal

A secret RUC document handed over to the Smithwick tribunal was so heavily censored as to be virtually useless, the collusion inquiry was told.

The tribunal was set up to look at allegations of Garda collusion with the IRA in the 1989 deaths of two senior RUC men as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

The 1985 report, known as an SB50, stated that detective garda sergeant Owen Corrigan was passing information to the IRA. Mr Corrigan has described collusion allegations as a “monstrous lie”.

The report was a “tipping factor” in Canadian judge Peter Cory’s recommendation that the Irish government should set up a tribunal of inquiry.

But the tribunal was told that when the RUC provided a copy of the SB50, large areas were blacked out, including the section where the RUC special branch officer who wrote it graded the reliability of the information.

Lawyers for the late chief superintendent Harry Breen, who died in the 20 March 1989 ambush along with his colleague superintendent Bob Buchanan, criticised the PRSI over the scale of the redactions in the report.

Family solicitor John McBirney said he could not understand why so much had been removed from the SB50 “unless it is to deliberately avoid senior officers having to explain why more was not done with the information contained in it.

The SB50 states that “Owen Corrigan, a sergeant in the Garda Special Branch in Dundalk is helping out the PIRA. Corrigan is keeping both the boys and the organisation well informed and he lets the boys know what the Security Forces are doing in the North when he can.”

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Smithwick was told one of the SB50’s authors had refused to co-operate with the Tribunal while the second had initially said he would give evidence but then refused.

Their superior officer – identified as Witness X – gave evidence that he knew Owen Corrigan for several years and he did not believe the intelligence report. He said passed the SB50 up to RUC headquarters but he did not tell his own officers.

Witness said he believed the intelligence was of “medium grade.”

“I didn’t believe it,” he Judge Smithwick. He said the report was more gossip than intelligence, and he continued to meet and work with Corrigan after receiving the report.

Lawyers for the Garda commissioner and PSNI clashed when Mr Michael Durack questioned the witness over a range of issues including the grade the Special Branch officers put on the information. Mr. Durack said if it was of such a low level that it was ignored by the RUC then that was an important issue for the Tribunal to consider.

Later, the tribunal heard from the retired Garda Special Branch chief superintendent Peter Maguire, who said he met with former British Army intelligence officer, Ian Hurst, at his home in Carrick on Suir. Mr Maguire said he never spoke to Mr. Hurst about Owen Corrigan “at any stage” contrary to what Mr. Hurst said in evidence.

Pfizer Ireland security chief Conor Hanlon said the chemical giant had never suffered a theft of over a million Viagra tablets, as claimed by former British agent Peter Keeley (also known as Kevin Fulton).

Last December Mr Keeley told the inquiry of his part in a sting operation involving the sale of a million Viagra tablets obtained by the IRA.

Mr Hanlon said Pfizer never had a million tablets stolen in Ireland or anywhere else. The company only made the component powder in Ireland, and it was then sent to Germany and France for conversion into tablet form. He said he was not aware that the distributors would have a million tablets in Ireland either.