Donaldson defends naming of Garda sergeant

Smithwick tribunal

Unionist politician Jeffrey Donaldson has defended his decision to name a former Garda detective sergeant as an IRA mole in the House of Commons, saying it was justified in his pursuit of a public inquiry into the murder of two senior IRA officers.

The Lagan Valley MP gave evidence to the Smithwick tribunal, which is examining allegations of garda collusion in the 1989 deaths of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.

Mr Donaldson named retired detective Owen Corrigan in the House of Commons in April 2000, during a speech on collusion allegations between members of An Garda Síochána and the IRA.

Mr Corrigan has denied the allegations, describing them as a “monstrous lie”.

But Mr Donaldson said the decision to name Mr Corrigan under parliamentary privilege was justified by the need to hold a public inquiry, and rejected the suggestion by Mr Corrigan’s barrister Mr Jim O’Callaghan SC that there was no need to name his client.

“That is a matter of judgement. I am elected to do that, I have a mandate to do that,” he said.

Mr Donaldson said that he was given Mr Corrigan’s name by “Kevin Fulton”, a former British agent who had infiltrated the IRA. He said that he spoke to “a senior member of the security forces” and verified that Mr Fulton had been an agent before taking the decision to go public in the House of Commons.

And he said that Canadian judge Peter Cory agreed with his assessment of Mr Fulton, and that Mr Fulton’s statement was a “tipping point” in the judge’s decision to recommend a public inquiry.

Mr O’Callaghan said that retired detective sergeant Corrign’s name had been used “as bait” by Mr Donaldson.

“I used the evidence that Fulton had given to me as the justification for the need to hold a public inquiry,” Mr Donaldson said.

Lawyers for a retired garda detective sergeant accused Mr Donaldson of endangered both his life and the lives of his family in a letter they wrote after he made the speech, Mr O’Callaghan said. The solicitors wrote to the DUP MP calling on him to withdraw the allegations.

Mr Donaldson told the tribunal that he had not received the letter.

And he told Mr O’Callaghan that the House of Commons was the appropriate place to raise his concerns, which he had given evidence about again to the Smithwick tribunal.

The MP said he would accept the conclusions of the tribunal, and would “consider” what to do if the tribunal found no basis for the allegations against Mr Corrigan.

Mr O’Callaghan asked if Mr Donaldson would repeat the allegations if he was asked about them by journalists outside the tribunal.

Mr Donaldson said the proper place to raise them was when giving his evidence, and he would tell journalists “you should have been inside listening”.

Mr O’Callaghan also said that Mr Donaldson had “completely and naively swallowed the information given to you by (former British agent) Kevin Fulton” because it suited his political agenda.

“Then my view is shared by Judge Cory,” Mr Donaldson replied.

Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended a tribunal into allegations of garda collusion in the 1989 deaths of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.

The MP said he “had to make a balanced judgement” about the information he was given.