Garda mole’s information ‘led to IRA murder of senior judge’

Smithwick tribunal: Belfast Telegraph

Intelligence reports revealed for the first time say that two deadly IRA attacks were based on information leaked from within an Garda Siochana, the Smithwick tribunal has heard.

The reports said the information led to the bomb which killed senior Northern Irish judge Lord Gibson and his wife Cecily in 1987 and the 1989 shooting of two senior RUC officers.

The tribunal was set up to look at allegations of Garda collusion in the March 1989 deaths of the officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.

Chief superintendent Brian Brunton outlined the precis of Garda “sensitive intelligence” reports to the tribunal, including a report prepared “sometime proximate to the murders” which said a named IRA member had a “Garda contact” who supplied information on short notice about the visit to Dundalk garda station by the two officers.

IRA units covered four roads leading from Dundalk back to Northern Ireland, the reports stated.

Another report based on “double hearsay” said that a contact within the Gardai “had passed on information that facilitated the murders” of Lord and Lady Gibson.

Earlier, former garda commissioner Lawrence Wren said he did not act when he received a report alleging Dundalk detective sergeant Owen Corrigan was “fiddling” by importing materials illegally from Northern Ireland to build a house.

Asked by PSNI barrister Mr Mark Robinson if Corrigan’s misdemeanours were ignored because he supplied good intelligence, the former commissioner said he didn’t recollect the intelligence Mr Corrigan supplied as “outstanding.”

Mr Wren said he was not told of a 1985 RUC intelligence report expressing concern at links between Mr Corrigan and IRA members, and “would have taken action immediately” in launching an inquiry if he was told of it.

Mr Corrigan denies supplying information to the IRA, describing the allegation as “a monstrous lie”.

Retired assistant commissioner Edward O’Dea said he later became aware of the intelligence reports and agreed the source was “reasonably reliable”.

The assistant commissioner conducted an investigation days after Breen and Buchanan were shot in March 1989, but said he did not believe he had overlooked anything.

He concluded that there was no Garda collusion in murders of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan.

Contemporary press reports from the weeks surrounding a lethal IRA ambush in which two senior RUC officers were killed was read into the record at the Smithwick tribunal.

Chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan were shot dead yards north of the border as they returned from a meeting with senior Garda officers in Dundalk on 20 March 1989.

The tribunal was set up to look at claims that information from a mole within Dundalk garda station led to the deadly ambush.

The contemporary reports show that senior Garda and RUC sources dismissed speculation of a security leak within hours of the killings.

But press reports suggested that there had been a leak in this case, and also the murders of chief justice Lord Gibson and his wife and the Hanna family.

A garda inquiry led by assistant commissioner Edward O’Dea took place within days, and concluded that there was no leak in Dundalk garda station.

But speculation was renewed following the publication of journalist Toby Harnden’s Bandit Country a decade later.

And following the naming of an alleged garda mole by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson in the House of Commons, pressure grew for a tribunal of inquiry.

Three former garda sergeants represented before the tribunal all deny they ever leaked any information to the IRA.

A 2003 report by Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended that a tribunal should be set up to look at collusion claims.