Garda says no advice sought on statement

Smithwick tribunal

A former assistant commissioner has said he spoke with lawyers representing the garda commissioner, but said he did not seek their advice before he changed a statement he had made to the Smithwick tribunal.

Retired assistant commissioner Pat O’Toole amended his evidence at the tribunal on Friday to say the reason for an internal inquiry following the 1989 deaths of two RUC officers as their returned from a meeting in Dundalk was to examine “the circumstances and arrangements of their visit.”

Mr O’Toole had previously said allegations of collusion may have been part of the reason for the inquiry.

He said that in mid-November 2011 he met with retired assistant commissioner Edward O’Dea, who carried out the 1989 inquiry, and asked him what the terms of reference for his investigation were.

But he did not amend his initial statement to the Smithwick tribunal when he made a supplementary statement the following month on 5 December 2011.

Barrister Mark Robinson, who represents the PSNI, said that in discussing the terms of reference with Mr O’Dea, the witness risked “contaminating his evidence.”

Mr O’Toole said he was unaware of a 1985 RUC special branch report which said Dundalk detective sergeant Owen Corrigan was providing information on security force movements “to the boys”. He said such a report would have been investigated by gardai.

Mr Corrigan denies allegations of collusion, describing them as a “monstrous lie”.

Mr O’Toole said that intelligence produced by Mr Corrigan was “reliable” and had led to successful prosecutions of IRA members.

The tribunal is looking at allegations that a garda leak led to the IRA ambush in which the two RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, were killed as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station.

“For a policeman to be accused of involvement in the murder of two other policeman must surely be the most horrendous accusation that can be made against any policeman,” he said.

“I have not seen any evidence whatsoever or any intelligence whatsoever that there was a mole in Dundalk.”

The witness said that the source behind one of the intelligence reports received following the deaths of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan “would have been in a position to know” if there was an IRA mole in Dundalk garda station.

Mr O’Toole said he was not aware of a protocol following the Warrenpoint attack in which 24 British soliders were killed, allowing intelligence to be shared by special branch officers on bothe sides of the border, but that the intelligence would not be made available to uniformed officers or CID.

And he said he was unaware of any garda intelligence reports suggesting that allegations of a mole within Dundalk garda station were IRA black propaganda to discredit the force.

Earlier, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Smithwick ruled that the full transcript of an interview with Mr O’Toole would not be released to lawyers representing the garda commissioner and three retired garda sergeants.

However the chairman ordered that copies of questions relating to the witness’s change of evidence should be circulated.

The chairman said he found no basis for disclosing the full interview transcripts between Mr O’Toole and the tribunal, as he had made no allegations against any of the parties.

But he said he was aware that concerns about “cherrypicking” had been raised, and so he had reviewed the transcripts, and order the questions relating to this aspect of Mr O’Toole’s evidence distributed.

The application was made on Monday by barristers representing retired sergeants Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton, Finbarr Hickey and the garda commissioner. All three men deny allegations of collusion being investigated by the tribunal.

Mr Jim O’Callaghan, on behalf of Mr Corrigan, said he was “comforted” by the fact the chairman had reviewed the transcripts in full.

“That does allay some of my fears,” he told the chairman.

The tribunal resumes on Thursday.