IRA had ability to intercept Garda phone calls

Smithwick tribunal

A 1988 Garda intelligence report stated that the Provisional IRA had the ability to intercept telephone calls from Garda stations or the private lines of Gardai, the Smithwick tribunal heard.

The report was one of several, summarised to protect the identities of sources, which were read into the tribunal record by garda superintendent Brian Brunton.

The tribunal also heard that an intelligence report received by Garda HQ from an “external agency” said that a named person who shared the name of a retired garda sergeant was a member of the Provisional IRA and involved in the deaths of nine people. The report was later withdrawn.

Another report from August 1988 referred to sightings of British agent Peter Keeley, who infiltrated the IRA, seen driving two senior members of the organisation on the day Robert Russell was extradited to Northern Ireland.

“It would appear at this stage he is a trusted member of PIRA,” the summary said.

Two other reports received at Garda HQ “many years after 1989” and assessed as reliable said that retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan was questioned about the identities of people supplying information on IRA activities in Louth/Meath when he was abducted in 1995.

And another report also assessed as reliable said the former detective was not involved in giving information to the PIRA on the movements of chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.

The Smithwick tribunal was set up to look at allegations of garda collusions in the 1989 IRA killings of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.

The tribunal also heard details of 38 intelligence reports prepared in 1985 by Mr Corrigan in the course of his duties, detailing sightings of IRA and INLA memb ers, and intelligence about their activities.

Mr Corrigan’s intelligence reports were a “significant input”, superintendent Brunton said.

Superintendent Brunton said the reports were prepared as a “counterbalance” to reports that an RUC “SB50” intelligence report in 1985 expressed concerns about Mr Corrigan’s contacts with IRA members.

PSNI barrister Mr Mark Robinson said that if Mr Corrigan was a double agent, then part of his role would be to produce intelligence to convince his superiors of his loyalty, which could render his intelligence reports a “false construct”.

Later, tribunal barrister Darragh Hayes read the transcript of a 2008 interview with deceased garda commissioner Eugene Crowley into the record.

Mr Crowley told the tribunal lawyers that an intelligence report from the RUC would have been conveyed orally.

“Anything I had from then would be orally or face-to-face, on the scrambler unit,” Mr Crowley said.

Later, retired sergeant Michael Mullany said he had seen detective sergeant Corrigan at a scene known as “the nest” near Narrow Water, Co Louth, from which it was believed IRA members had detonated bombs which killed 18 British soldiers and one civilian on 27 August 1979.

Mr Mullany said that on 29 August, a group of six or so men from Northern Ireland, who he believed were RUC officers, visited the scene, and one of the men spoke to Mr Corrigan.

The tribunal chairman said that he expected an agreed summary of intelligence information he had seen would be provided to it shortly. A British military witness will give evidence to the inquiry when it resumes on Tuesday 20 March.