Gardai foiled suicide mission to kill Sinn Féin leadership

Smithwick tribunal

A version of this article appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on 21 July 2011.

A suicide mission to assassinate the Sinn Féin leadership was foiled when Gardai arrested a British soldier who was on his way to Dublin to attack an Ard Comhairle meeting and then kill himself.Photo of Smithwick tribunal

Retired garda Terry Hynes told the Smithwick tribunal that Gardai were alerted when a loaded revolver was found in a Dundalk hotel room, and then staked out the hotel until the suspect returned.

In custody, the man admitted his plan, and that he had broken into an RIR armoury and stolen ammunition which he sold to the East Belfast UVF. He was later extradited to Northern Ireland.

Hynes cited the incident as one of several examples of cooperation between the Gardai and RUC during the troubles. The tribunal is looking at claims that a Garda leak led to the murder of two RUC officers returning from a meeting in Dubdalk in 1989.

He also said that RUC chief constable Sir Jack Hermon was “on first name terms” with Owen Corrigan, a former detective sergeant who was named in the House of Commons as an IRA mole by DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson in 2000. Corrigan has described the allegation as a “monstrous lie.”

Detectives from Dundalk provided a security escort for the chief constable on occasions when he drove to Dublin to collect his son, who flew into the airport on holidays while studying in England, Mr Hynes said.

“He [Hermon] would be briefed daily about all intelligence activities in the north of Ireland,” Hynes said. “And there is no way he would have come down and exposed himself to danger if there was the slightest suspicion there was any irregular activity regarding intelligence at Dundalk Station.”

The tribunal is looking at claims that an IRA mole leaked information about the visit of two senior RUC officers, leading to their deaths.

Retired detective Jim Gannon said he was told there was an IRA mole in Dundalk garda station by a man whose house was raided by four armed and masked men in Summer 1978.

The man, who escaped by fleeing down fields behind his home, emigrated to Australia shortly after he told the detective.

Gannon said the man was “very distressed at the time.”

The former detective said he did not believe the claim at the time, but it stuck in his mind.

Retired garda Harry Murtagh said there was “general disbelief” at media reports of a Garda mole in the wake of the murders of the two RUC men.

“There was no great credence given to them, there didn’t to be anyway,” he said.

Earlier, retired inspector Tadhg Foley said information from Kevin Fulton, a British Army agent, led to a two day search for a bomb factory in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, but nothing was found.

The inspector also described an incident where Corrigan had boosted his score on a marksmanship test by poking holes in the target with a pencil, but said he had no other experience of the ex-detective.

Asked what sort of man Mr Corrigan was, the ex-inspector said he was “chancy”.