Garda report raised concerns about detective sergeant

Smithwick tribunal

An intelligence report was received by the Garda Crime & Security branch in the mid-1980s raising concerns about “inappropriate contacts” between a detective sergeant and a “person of interest” linked to the provisional IRA, the Smithwick tribunal heard.

The report was counter-balanced by another report which gave an “alternative explanation” of the intelligence, suggesting the contact was “properly motivated”, detective chief superintendent Peter Kirwan said.

The garda intelligence was separate to a 1985 RUC report raising concerns about the detective sergeant, Mr Kirwan told counsel for the PSNI Mr Mark Robinson.

Mr Robinson put it to the witness that an initial inquiry into allegations of a leak from with Dundalk garda station was “potentially flawed”.

But Mr Kirwan said the steps taken by the inquiry was “logical, proportionate and realistic in the circumstances.”

And he said there was “a high degree of irresponsible journalism” in the book by journalist Toby Harnden and an article by columnist Kevin Myers alleging garda collusion in the 1989 deaths of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent bob Buchanan.

The tribunal heard that two politicians who stated in the Irish and British parliaments that they had information about the deaths were not interviewed during a second Garda inquiry in which Mr Kirwan was involved.

Opposition justice spokesman Jim Higgins and unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson both spoke about the case in Spring 2000, and said they had further information about the case, and allegations that the movements of the RUC officers were leaked to the IRA from within Dundalk garda station.

Mr Donaldson named a former detective sergeant, Owen Corrigan, using parliamentary privilege, and Mr Higgins also said that he had been given names, although he did not put them on the Dáil record. Mr Corrigan denies the allegations.

The unionist MP also referred to “technical information gleaned..from the watchtowers in South Armagh” supporting the allegation of collusion.

Detective chief superintendent Peter Kirwan, who was a detective inspector at the time, was assigned to investigate the claims along with his superior, detective chief superintendent Sean Camon.

The allegations were also referred to in letters to the Garda commissioner Pat Byrne from opposition leader John Bruton, and in a letter to taoiseach Bertie Ahern from former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble.

Mr Trimble’s letter, addressed to “dear Bertie”, said that the taoiseach had previously raised the cases of alleged RUC collusion in the deaths of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, adding “I know you will want to avoid any accusation of operating double standards.”

Mr Kirwan said that the politicians were not approacheded as it was thought by Mr Camon they were basing their comments in parliament on the works of Harnden and Myers.

He said that Mr Camon was the investigating detective, two ranks above him, and his job was to provide intelligence from the Crime & Security branch about IRA tactics and operations.

Tribunal barrister Mr Justin Dillon SC asked the witness why Mr Higgins had not been interviewed following his comments in the Dáil.

Mr Kirwan said that Mr Camon “made an assessment in his report that they weren’t stand-alone allegations.”

“It wasn’t like the conventional investigation,” Mr Kirwan said. “Most of the activity on this was reviewing files.”

Mr Dillon said that it seemed like a “glaring omission” in the report.

Mr Kirwan and Mr Camon did travel to Washington DC,where they interviewed author Toby Harnden about the allegations in his book, Bandit Country.