Garda commissioner not told about collusion reports

Smithwick tribunal

A former garda commissioner has said he was never told of three intelligence reports which said there was garda collusion in the deaths of two senior RUC officers as they returned from a cross-border meeting in Dundalk.

“I was not aware of that intelligence,” said Mr Patrick Culligan, who served as commissioner between 1991 and 1996.

The intelligence reports were received in the years following the deaths of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan on 20 March 1989. The tribunal is looking at allegations of garda collusion in the IRA ambush in which the two officers were killed.

And a separate report said that a senior witness in a case against Dundalk detective sergeant Owen Corrigan was intimidated and then refused to give evidence in a trial. The charges against Mr Corrigan were later dismissed. Mr Corrigan denies he ever leaked information.

The Smithwick tribunal was set up to look at allegations of Garda collusion in the deatsh of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, on 20 March 1989.

Mr Corrigan strongly denies the allegation that he leaked information to the IRA and any other wrongdoing, describing it as a “monstrous lie”.

Mr Culligan said he would have carried out an inquiry if he had been told of the intelligence reports.

“The tribunal has seen précis of three different documents came in after the murders that certainly suggested somebody was supplying information,” tribunal barrister Mary Laverty SC said.

Earlier, retired chief superintendent Owen Giblin said an order to garda officers along the border to salute the coffins of three IRA members killed in Gibraltar came from Eamon Doherty, the Garda commissioner of the day.

The tribunal previously heard that garda officers in Dundalk decided to ignore the order when it was conveyed to them, and as a result the only officer to salute the coffins was chief superintendent Giblin.

Mr Giblin said the order was given to him at a meeting in Garda HQ to pass down to his officers “on the specific instructions of the commissioner”, Eamon Doherty.

“I carried out the instruction I was given which was unless you are otherwise engaged you salute the coffin,” Mr Giblin said.

“When I gave that instruction, nobody queried it or disagreed with it and I haven’t met anybody who said it was wrong.”

“I was merely conveying the wishes of the commissioner.”

Mr Giblin also said that the reason former detective sergeant Owen Corrigan did not give a statement or co-operate with a Garda investigation after he was abducted for several days by the IRA was “fear, as simple as that.”

Retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan was abducted along with another man in 1995.

“I don’t know how I would react if I was subjected to treatment like that, or what threats there were,” he said.

Mr Giblin said that detective sergeant Corrigan had been “branded” as someone who had supplied information to the IRA, but stated “I don’t think he was involved.”

He said the IRA had its own intelligence network and would not have needed a source within the Gardai, and he had never heard the word “mole” until years after his retirement.

Mr Giblin said that during his time as chief superintendent, there was “friction” between Mr Corrigan and two other officers, inspector Dan Prenty and superintendent Pat Culhane. He said he placed Mr Corrigan on a “special assignment”, working on his own.

He said Mr Corrigan was an “excellent detective who produced a lot of good information.”