Ex garda ‘close’ to Provo suspect

Smithwick tribunal

A former detective sergeant who denies allegations he was a Garda “mole” who supplied information to the IRA was a “very close” associate of a suspected Provisional IRA member and smuggler, the Smithwick tribunal heard.

Jim McHugh, a retired assistant garda commissioner who headed an internal garda corruption inquiry into ex-detective sergeant Owen Corrigan as a result of allegations of insurance fraud following a road traffic collision, described the former detective sergeant as “a colourful character” and a “wheeler and dealer” in used cars.

He said Mr Corrigan “wheeled and dealed in second hand cars quite extensively” and worked with a local garage owner.

The ex-assistant commissioner also said Mr Corrigan had a reputation for successful investigations of subversives, and that his involvement in the large-scale buying and selling of used cars was “perhaps not becoming of a member of An Garda Siochana”.

Extracts from a report prepared by detective superintendent Michael Finnegan were read into the record at the tribunal, giving details of a Mr Francie Tiernan, believed to be involved in activities with the Provisional IRA and in cigarette and alcohol smuggling.

Mr Corrigan was a “very close associate of Mr Tiernan”, who was convicted in 1990 of a £1.3 million fraud and sentenced to two years in prison”, the report said.

Mr Tiernan was involved in many fraud scams in Northern Ireland, the Republic and in England, the report said.

Sections of a report dealing with allegations by Mr Patrick Gallagher of insurance fraud were not read into the record following objections from barrister Mr Jim O’Callaghan SC, who objected that the report was spring on him at late notice.

Mr Gallagher told the inquiry that he made a complaint to gardai about a fraudulent insurance claim after a collision with a vehicle owned by former detective Owen Corrigan.

But he was stopped near his south Armagh home the day before the trial and told not to go to court to give evidence.

“Where I lived, when you were told to do something you did it,” Mr Gallagher said. “They were bad times, troubled times. I had young children and their safety came first.”

Because Mr Gallagher did not appear to give evidence, the trial did not go ahead, the tribunal heard.

The only damage was to the tail-light of a trailer which was carrying a motorbike, and he told detective sergeant Corrigan his insurance company would take care of it.

But he later learned that his employers had been presented for a £1500 bill for damages caused by the collision. His employer hired a private detective, who discovered the claim for damages related to a van in Co Wexford.

A garda investigation was also launched, leading to a court case, but Mr Gallagher did not give evidence after he was stopped by several men as he left home one morning, and told not to go to court.

Mr Gallagher told senior counsel Jim O’Callaghan, who represents Mr Corrigan, that he did not know who sent the men who warned him, but said only one person would have benefited if he did not appear in court to give evidence.

He disagreed with the barrister that his memory of the events was incorrect. Mr O’Callaghan said his client would refute the insinuation that he was involved in any kind of intimidation.

The tribunal is looking at claims that a Garda “mole” leaked information to the IRA about a visit by two senior RUC officers to Dundalk garda station in March 1989, leading to the murders of chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan as they returned to Northern Ireland.

Mr Corrigan has described allegations that he was behind any leak as “a monstrous lie”.

Solicitor Ernie Waterworth, who represents the family of superintendent Bob Buchanan, said he could not understand why a record summarising garda intelligence was not made public.