IRA mole saved lives, tribunal told

Smithwick tribunal

Peter Keeley, the British agent also known as Kevin Fulton, provided intelligence to the RUC special branch which saved lives, a retired RUC detective inspector told the Smithwick tribunal.

The senior officer, identified only as Witness 60, said he investigated both terrorist and “ordinary” crime, and that he had a different function from Special Branch, which collected intelligence.

“He [Keeley] did provide some good intelligence not only on terrorist crimes but also on ordinary crime,” the witness said.

The witness said he was never told that there was any Garda officer in Dundalk he should be wary of, and agreed with counsel for the garda commissioner that RUC special branch would share intelligence with him.

The witness said he never encountered another man known as Patrick “Mooch” Blair, but added “I believe he was a suspect for some terrorist offences around Newry at that time, but I’m not exactly sure which ones.”

Witness 60 worked as a Detective inspector in Gough Barracks until 1994.

The tribunal was set up to looking allegations of garda collusion in the murder of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station on 20 March 1989.

The witness said that the border area “was a dangerous place to work”, but said “It was no more dangerous going across the border than it was going to Newry.”

“You were always apprehensive, you were careful, but it didn’t preclude you doing your job,” he said.

Another retired RUC officer, Witness 61, a former special branch superintendent said, he was not aware of any radio transmissions from terrorists along the border on the day the two men died.

But he said the deceased officer behind the reports was a professional officer.

Previously, another witness told the tribunal that deceased RUC chief superintendent Frank Murray informed him there was “a traffic of radio signals that were known to be terrorist” from lunchtime on the day the two senior RUC officers were killed.

Witness 27 told the tribunal he got the information from now deceased RUC detective chief superintendent Frank Murray.

Asked several times by Mr Neil Rafferty BL if an officer of Mr Murray’s integrity would make such a claim lightly, Witness 61 replied that he did not recall it being discussed.

“I don’t recall hearing anything about that, no,” said the witness, identified only as Witness 61.

Another witness told the tribunal previously that deceased RUC superintendent Frank Murray informed him there was “a traffic of radio signals that were known to be terrorist” from lunchtime on the day the two senior RUC officers were killed.

Witness 27 said the signals began “in the early afternoon of the day, around lunchtime”.

The signals were sent “from about midday on the day of the murder,” according to witness 27.

“I don’t recall that,” the retired superintendent said today.

The witness said it was difficult to say what the signals related to as they were “only technical noises”, and could have been about a planned ambush, or about smuggling.

“I would describe South Armagh as a ruthless, efficient and cohesive IRA unit who basically conducted operations locally, nationally and internationally,” Witness 61 said.

And he said his superior officer, now deceased assistant chief constable Fitzsimons, “spoke very highly” of retired garda detective sergeant Owen Corrigan.

Mr Corrigan has described allegations that he was the source of a leak to the IRA as “a monstrous lie”.

Retired RUC chief inspector Harmon Nesbitt told the tribunal that Bob Buchanan spoke to him about a planned visit to Dundalk garda station on the Saturday beforehand.

“He was involved in some sort of operation he was trying to arrange with the Guards,” Mr Nesbitt said.

And he said that Harry Breen was “the sort of person who had a presence about him”.

Mr Nesbitt agreed that Mr Breen was well known after he was photographed with a weapons cache following the Loughall ambush.

“After that they [the PIRA] felt they had to get some sort of revenge, not that they needed an excuse,” he said. “He would have been a coup for them if they got him, and they did.”