Credibility of key Smithwick witness questioned

Smithwick tribunal

A key witness whose evidence led to the setting up of the Smithwick tribunal provided “misleading” information to Gardai, the tribunal heard.

Former assistant commissioner Joe Egan, who worked in Garda intelligence, said he met Peter Keeley (AKA Kevin Fulton), although he did not speak to him.

“What he conveyed for me to investigate at a that stage was not correct and it was misleading,” Mr Egan said.

Evidence from Mr Keeley that Garda detective sergeant Owen Corrigan had met with an IRA member Mr Patrick Joseph “Mooch” Blair was one of the reasons Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended a tribunal to investigate garda collusion claims.

Mr Corrigan, one of three former Garda sergeants granted legal representation at the tribunal, has described allegations that he gave information to the IRA as a “monstrous lie”.

The tribunal is looking at claims a Garda “mole” leaked information to the IRA leading to the murders of two RUC officers, Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

“I was the commissioner for crime and security when [Judge Cory] came, he conducted his investigation on the files that were under my command,” Mr Egan said.

And he said of Mr Blair involvement in the IRA: “For many years Mooch Blair came to notice as a person who was involved in terrorism and was very active in the North Louth area.”

“When the peace process came he didn’t go with the Good Friday agreement.”

Mr Blair was granted the right to legal representation at the tribunal this morning.

Mr Egan also confirmed that senior Garda officers shared intelligence with the RUC and MI5, and also had contact with British Army intelligence officers in Northern Ireland through the RUC.

Retired special branch detective Sean O’Connell said that he had heard that Mr Corrigan was “untrustworthy” when he was stationed in Tralee. The detective inspector also served in Dublin Castle, Shannon, and Harcourt Street during his career.

He said he was “never very happy with the security of information in the force” during his career, and “always felt there was too much loose talk”.

Mr O’Connell said that he had only heard “gossip” from other Gardai that Mr Corrigan was “dodgy”.

He said that he had never met Mr Corrigan himself, and was not suggesting the detective sergeant was supplying information to the IRA.

He said that he had not investigated the rumours or reported them to anyone else.

“There was nothing specific in it,” he said. “It was just generalised conversation.”

“I regarded it as something for someone else to investigate, it wasn’t up to me,” he said.

The tribunal rose early after former Garda commissioner Noel Conroy, who was scheduled to give evidence, did not appear at the tribunal as he “mistook the date”.

Mr Conroy’s appearance has been rescheduled and he will now give his evidence tomorrow.