Garda ‘problem’ was common knowledge among RUC detectives

Smithwick tribunal

A former RUC detective has said it was “common knowledge” among RUC detectives stationed along the border in the late 1980s that there was a problem in Dundalk garda station and intelligence should not be shared with them.

The retired RUC detective inspector, identified only as Witness 70, gave evidence from behind a screen at the Smithwick tribunal.

“It was just common knowledge along the border that there was a problem sitting in Dundalk Garda station,” said the witness, who was a detective sergeant in South Down between 1987 and 1992..

The tribunal is investigating allegations of garda collusion in the deaths of RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station on 20 March 1989.

“I was aware of an officer of An Garda Síochána who was actively assisting the IRA,” Witness 70 said.

He said the information was passed to him at a Special Branch briefing, and the officer was named as detective sergeant Owen Corrigan.

Mr Corrigan denies any allegations of supplying information to the IRA.

“All our inquiries were consistently leading to units of the IRA who were living in Dundalk,” Witness 70 said.

The witness also said he had met with IRA informant “Kevin Fulton” on four or six occasions in the late 1990s, and that Mr Fulton supplied information on drug dealing.

He said Mr Fulton “spoke comfortably” about IRA contacts, “which confirmed to me he was actively working with them.”

He said Mr Fulton had the air of a “loveable rogue”.

“But there was also was also a sinister side to him that you had to be aware of.”

And he said he found the information Mr Fulton supplied “good and reliable”, and had led to convictions.

The witness also said RUC Special Branch “had regarded him [Fulton] as a nuisance factor”, and “would not have wanted an informant of theirs talking to CID.”

The witness also said that on one occasion, Mr Fulton brought him and another officer to a location said to be the site in the Republic where the Omagh bomb was made.

He said he felt nervous during the journey.

“We were two guys in suits, short hair, with a guy sitting in the back seat, driving up country roads. We looked out of place,” he said.

Former assistant commissioner Joe Egan returned to the tribunal to “clarify” evidence he had given in September, when he said that Mr Fulton had given “misleading” information.

He said that on an occasion, Mr Fulton had pointed out a house in Dublin where a weapon used in a murder was hidden, but that later the RUC had contacted him to say that Mr Fulton had withdrawn the identification.

Mr Egan said the house indicated by Mr Fulton belonged to “a senior politician.”

Mr Neil Rafferty, on behalf on Mr Fulton, said that at the time, the relationship between Mr Fulton and RUC Special Branch was disintegrating, and his client feared he would be arrested by An Garda Siochana after he identified the location of the weapon.

Witness 71, a former RUC officer who received intelligence from Mr Fulton, said that the informant “was one of the best ones I ever had.”

Retired assistant commissioner Kevin Carty told the tribunal that a two day inquiry he took part in following the deaths of the RUC officers was “a fact finding mission rather than an investigation.”

The inquiry, headed by former assistant commissioner Edward O’Dea, then head of Crime & Security in An Garda Siochana, was ordered by the Garda commissioner following a cabinet decision the day after the murders.