IRA didn’t tap border phoneline: engineer

Smithwick tribunal: Belfast Telegraph

There is no evidence that a Garda-RUC “hotline” was tapped by the IRA, a telecommunications engineer has told the Smithwick tribunal.

Tom Roddy was questioned about reports in Phoenix magazine that the IRA had a tap on the confidential cross-border secure line between 1987 and 1990.

The report described how calls were recorded using a voice activated long play recorder, connected to a Telecom Eireann cable.

“I can’t remember when, but we checked tht when the story broke, and that wasn’t the case,”a Mr Roddy said.

“It’s a massive job to do and to hide,” he said.

“You would need to know what you were doing.”

And he said the tapping operation would take “a minimum of four to five hours.”

“And you’ve got a lot of equipemt to take down there, gas cylinders.

Mr Roddy said that even at night, there would be people working in the exchange, and “if you were a stranger walking in, people would say ‘Who is that guy?’”

And the operation would leave evidence as cables would have to be opened and then repaired, and an alarm would go off during the operation as the air pressure inside the cable changed.

“If it had been done, the evidence would still be there today,” Mr Roddy said.

“That was investigated and there was no cable sheath repair.”

Mr Roddy said that in 37 years working in Dundalk he never heard of any alleged interference with a garda line.

The tribunal is looking at claims that a garda tip-off allowed the IRA to set up an ambush in which chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan died on 20 May 1989, as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.