A former member of staff for a senior RUC officer killed crossing the border said it could have been him in the car ambushed by the IRA in March 1989, but his place was taken by another officer because he was playing a rugby game that evening.
Alan Mains was a sergeant in 1989, and worked as staff officer to chief Supt Harry Breen, the most senior RUC officer to die during the Troubles. Breen and Chief Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush on the way back from a meeting with Dundalk Gardai.
“He was a gentleman,” Mr Mains said of Chief Supt Breen at the Smithwick tribunal set up to probe Garda collusion claims. He said that Supt Buchanan was “very quiet and unassuming”.
Mains said the meeting was arranged after a dinner where Northern Ireland Secretary of State Tom King was given reports of alleged smuggling on the property of well-known republican Thomas “Slab” Murphy by a British Army colonel.
He said that Chief Supt Breen was “specifically directed to speak with the Guards and the Army, and to come up with some kind of reply for the Chief constable and the Secretary of State.”
Mr Mains, who would normally accompany the Chief Superintendent to take notes at meetings, and asked to be excused from the journey.
He said Breen was worried members of the Gardai were on the payroll of Thomas “Slab” Murphy, and named a specific officer, Owen Corrigan. Mr Corrigan denies any wrongdoing.
Mains also rejected that the officers disobeyed an order from an Assistant Chief Constable not to cross the border.
“To suggest either Breen or Buchanan would do that is really a nonsense,” he said.
Mains said his only other knowledge of Garda Corrigan came in 1997, when he was a Detective Inspector in Newry. A garda colleague phoned him and said Corrigan had been “taken from outside a pub and it wasn’t particularly good.”
“There was blood, hair and teeth, evidence of a particularly violent struggle.”
Mr Mains was later told that Corrigan had been found “and that he was thankfully alive.”
Earlier a senior Garda officer has hotly rejected a suggestion that there was an attempt to “rewrite history” in Dundalk Garda station following the deaths of two RUC men.
Tribunal barrister Mr Justin Dillon said that it appeared there was “an attempt made to create an aura that very few knew” about the planned meeting in Dundalk Garda station.
“Absolutely not,” retired Garda chief superintendent John Nolan replied, when asked the question.
Mr Nolan also said that he was not told of any concerns over collusion allegations by colleagues in the force.
“Anything to do with collusion, as far as I can recall it, always came from the media,” he said.