IRA man says he did not know any Garda mole

Smithwick tribunal

A convicted IRA man has told the Smithwick tribunal that he did not know any Garda as claimed in allegations made by a British agent, was not involved in the Omagh bombing, and dismissed the agent as a “fantasist” who made up stories to sell to newspapers.

Patrick Joseph “Mooch” Blair was convicted in 1975 of the attempted murder of a constable and sentenced to 15 years in prison. On his release In 1982 he moved to Dundalk, Co Louth. He was convicted again of possession of ammunition in 2003.

Lawyers for Peter Keeley, a former British agent who says Blair was his commander when he infiltrated the IRA, asked the witness him if it would be embarrassing to have vouched for someone who was “a Special Branch agent from the get-go.”

“It would be an embarrassment,” Blair said. “We all make mistakes, nobody’s infallible.”

Barrister Neil Rafferty said that his client’s evidence would be that Blair vouchsafed Keeley, and “green-booked” him as an IRA member.

But Blair said Keeley was not a member of any group, and “not a volunteer in my eyes.”

Blair said his rank in the Provisional IRA was “volunteer” and he served with the South Down IRA.

He said he was “proud” to be a member of the IRA and “would not give up any friend”.

And he said that he had never met former Garda detective sergeant Owen Corrigan or any other garda to receive information. The ex-sergeant also denies leaking information to the IRA.

Blair said he would take a lie detector test about the Omagh bombing, then said he would take one if Peter Keeley also took one, then said he would “consider it”.

Keeley’s barrister Neil Rafferty asked if other witnesses should also be given lie detector tests, and whether witnesses should be recalled.

And another barrister said that polygraph lie detector tests were “wholly unreliable junk science” and not admissible in any country except the USA, where they had led to miscarriages of justice.

The tribunal is examining claims of garda collusion in the murder of two RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, in March 1989.

Keeley has said that after the ambush in which the two men died, he had a conversation with Blair and another man, who told Blair that “our friend” was involved in the operation. Keeley said he understood this to refer to a garda “mole”.

But Blair said this never happened, and he did not know of any gardai ever “assisting anyone”.

He denied ever meeting a garda as described by Keeley, and said the only time he ever got into a car with a garda was when he was arrested.

Blair said on the day the two RUC officers were murdered, he was in a pub and a bookie’s shop between midday and 4pm.

The witness was asked by tribunal barrister Ms Mary Laverty SC how long such an operation might take to mount, based on his experience as a volunteer.

“I imagine within an hour or so,” Blair replied.

He said that it would be necessary for someone to identify the men to begin the operation, but they would be known by IRA members who had been arrested, or through press and television appearances.

“I’m sure if you were ready, or people ready it would only take an hour or so.”

Blair said he was not a member of the “Nutting squad”, which was “a fantasy made up by Keeley to sell stories to the paper”, and had nothing to do with the Omagh bombing, as Keeley had told Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.

Blair was asked why Keeley had linked him to the Omagh bombing. “I imagine because I was convicted. I couldn’t go to court. I couldn’t say I didn’t make bombs,” Blair replied.

Daughter of IRA victim confronts IRA man at tribunal

The daughter of a man killed by a bomb under his car in 1990 confronted an IRA member outside the Smithwick tribunal.

Manya Dickinson was 13 years old when her father, Kenny Graham, a building contractor who supplied the security forces, died on 27 April 1990.

Ms Dickinson said she believes the bomb that killed her father was built by Patrick Joseph “Mooch” Blair, a convicted IRA member who gave evidence at the Smithwick tribunal in Dublin today.

“Something should be done for victims of IRA violence,” Ms Dickinson said afterwards. The government has got to do something.”

“He just laughed in my face, he didn’t deny it or anything. He just laughed in my face.”

“And if this is what the British government expects us to put up with, then they can forget about it, because this is awful, that we have to put up with this.”