Former Garda hated IRA, colleague tells tribunal

Smithwick tribunal: Irish Independent

A former detective sergeant named in the House of Commons as an IRA “mole” hated the IRA, the Smithwick tribunal looking at collusion allegations has heard.Photo of Smithwick tribunal

The tribunal, chaired by former district court president Peter Smithwick, was set up to investigate claims that the IRA were tipped off from within An Garda Siochana before an ambush in which two senior RUC men died.

Chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan were murdered on 20 March 1989 as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

Retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan has described allegations that he passed information to the IRA as a “monstrous lie”.

His colleague in the detective branch, Gerry Murray, said that Owen Corrigan was “an excellent detective sergeant who had great knowledge” of local IRA members.

“I know Mr Corrigan hated the IRA. He did everything in his power to put the IRA behind bars. He was a very dedicated man who put his life on the line. He hated the IRA,” Mr Murray said.

The detective said that in professional and social contacts with the RUC, no one had ever mentioned the possibility of an IRA mole, and there was “never any credence given” to media reports of a mole following the deaths of the two RUC men.

He said the IRA operation could have been mounted “within hours” if the IRA had knowledge of the men’s movements, but would have taken weeks or months of planning.

“There definitely would haver been a plan in place that could be activated within hours,” he said.

Earlier, retired chief superintendent Michael Staunton said the time available for the IRA to plan the ambush was very limited.

“It seems to me an hour would be a short time if the information wasn’t specific,” he said.

He said he thought superintendent Bob Buchanan did not give sufficient care to his personal security, and “would come to the station in a casual way” which exposed him to risk.

“He didn’t seem to have any concern for his safety,” Mr Staunton added.

He also said the Edenappa road where the ambush took place was a road he would not go down, and agreed it was a “no go area”.

A civilian worker in Dundalk garda station completed her evidence in less than fifteen minutes after it emerged she was not working on the day two senior RUC officers were killed.

Kathleen Freeman told the tribunal she has been wondering why she did not recall events on the day the two men were killed, and had realised it was only a few months after the birth of her eldest son. She had been on maternity leave until the beginning of March 1989, and then on sick leave for another month until early April 1989.

Mrs Freeman, who was employed as a civilian administrator in the district superintendent’s office, said she confirmed she was not working by contacting a personnel officer in Navan.

“I just assumed that my records would be looked up by the tribunal,” she said. “It never occurred to me before that to check up.”

The tribunal resumes on Tuesday 19 July.