IRA claim is “monstrous lie” says ex-Garda

Smithwick tribunal

A former Garda detective named in the House of Commons as an IRA “mole” has described the allegation as a “monstrous lie”, the Smithwick tribunal heard.Photo of Smithwick tribunal

Jim O’Callaghan SC said his client, former detective garda Owen Corrigan, was “a good guard who fought the IRA at a difficult and dangerous time.”

Alan Mains, a staff officer who worked for RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen in 1989, said his boss was worried before a trip to Dundalk garda station in March 1989, and expressed concern about several Garda officers, including Corrigan.

Breen and his colleague Supt Bob Buchanan were killed on the way back from their meeting, and the tribunal is looking at Garda collusion claims.

“I want to make it clear Mr Chairman, I have absolutely nothing against Mr Corrigan, I am merely repeating what I was told at the time,” Mains told the inquiry.

“If he [Corrigan] says he was fighting the IRA at the time I have no reason to doubt it.”

O’Callaghan said that in 1984, Corrigan was chosen as the officer to physically hand over INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey to the RUC at the border following his extradition.

“As a result he was subjected and his family were subjected to a vicious campaign.”

In a statement days after the lethal ambush, Mains said Breen was uneasy about the trip, but Mains did not name Owen Corrigan in the statement.

The detective was named under privilege in the House of Commons in April 2000 by unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson, and six months later Mains named Corrigan in a statement to Gardai.

Mains, who retired from the PSNI with the rank of superintendent in 2007, said he was advised by a CID officer not to name Corrigan in his initial statement in 1989, as the name could become public at an inquest, putting his life in danger.

But he said he gave the name to the CID officer and Chief Constable Sir John Hermon.

“I was very satisfied that the name had been given to the right people and they would know what to do with it,” Mains said.

And he said that eleven years later, he named the Garda when he was asked for a statement during an internal Garda inquiry.

O’Callaghan said his client was in a difficult position, as both the CID officer and the Chief Constable were deceased.

But Mains insisted his recollection was clear, and rejected several suggestions from the barrister that incidents he has described did not happen.

Mains also said he was interviewed by journalist Toby Harnden, and that the RUC press office asked him to speak to the writer.

O’Callaghan said author Toby Harnden’s book “Bandit Country” and an Irish Times article by Kevin Myers, “a malleable Irish journalist”, created a “momentum” damaging client’s his good name.

Later, retired Garda Val Smith said the signature on a statement taken by assistant commissioner Edward O’Dea days after the ambush was not his, although it was his statement.

“The statement is correct but that signature is not my signature,” Smith said.