No Garda record of kidnap money claim

Smithwick tribunal

No intelligence record could be found in Garda headquarters to support a report stating that a retired detective sergeant was kidnapped and beaten up by the IRA in 1995 because he owed them money, the Smithwick tribunal heard.

The report was prepared by chief Superintendent Michael Finnegan (now retired) after ex-detective sergeant Owen Corrigan’s solicitor inquired about a claim for compensation.

Retired gardai may be entitled to compensation for injuries they suffer after they retired which are related to their service in the force.

Mr Michael Durack SC, representing the garda commissioner, said that a former garda could apply to the minister for justice for permission to bring such a claim. He said that when the Smithwick tribunal asked the commissioner’s office for intelligence to support the report on the abduction, Garda HQ confirmed there was no intelligence on record relating to Mr Corrigan’s kidnap.

Mr Michael Finnegan said that after his abduction, Mr Corrigan was interviewed twice by detectives, but did not make any statement. He told them he was severely beaten by a number of men.

In a later interview, he said the men were members of the Provisional IRA, and guns were involved.

“I believed at the time that Owen Corrigan had decided to make a claim for compensation,” Mr Finnegan said. “It was basically preparing the ground for a claim for compensation.”

In his report, Mr Finnegan wrote that “soft intelligence” suggested that Mr Corrigan and another man were kidnapped because they owed the Provisional IRA £35,000 for “a lorryload of spirits.”

The report also said there was “no evidence” the abduction had anything to do with Mr Corrigan’s service in An Garda Siochana.

Mr Finnegan said he was asked to prepare a report in response to the claim for compensation.

He said the intelligence about the abduction was “very soft intelligence or maybe rumour as to what happened.”

He told tribunal barrister Mr Justin Dillon there were “different strands of intelligence.”

“Gossip is intelligence?” asked Mr Dillon.

“No, no, some of it would be based on rumour,” the witness replied.

Mr Finnegan said the intelligence “would have been based on information received by members or told to members by suspected or actual members of the IRA as to what had happened.”

Asked by Mr Dara Lehane if Mr Corrigan was “hated” by the IRA because of his work as a detective investigating subversive activity, Mr Finnegan said the former sergeant “most certainly wasn’t popular for a lot of the things he did.”

He said he stood over the report and the clarifications he had made in response to questions by the tribunal.

Mr Corrigan has described allegations he was involved in providing information to the IRA while working as a Garda in Dundalk as “a monstrous lie”.

A former detective sergeant who denies allegations he was an IRA mole was trusted to escort Northern VIPs including the secretary of state and RUC chief constable Sir Jack Hermon when they visited the republic.

Retired detective Patrick O’Connor told the tribunal he had accompanied ex-sergeant Owen Corrigan on VIP escort duty.

The morning’s proceedings at the Smithwick tribunal were observed by PSNI assistant chief constable Drew Harris OBE.

Mr O’Connor said he paid no attention to newspaper stories about an IRA mole in Dundalk garda station because there were written to attract attention.

Patrick O’Connor spent all but four years of his career in Dundalk, first as a uniformed garda and then as a member of the detective branch.

He told the tribunal he had no evidence of an IRA “mole” in the station.

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.

Mr Corrigan has described the allegation he was a mole as a “monstrous lie”.

Mr O’Connor said he had no knowledge of former detective sergeant Owen Corrigan’s dealing with others, although he had a reputation for not paying people.

He said that his only financial dealing with the sergeant was when he loaned him £10 while escorting the Northern Irish secretary of state to a rugby match in Landsdowne Road.

A few weeks later, which on escort duty protecting RUC chief constable Sir Jack Hermon, Mr Corrigan paid back the loan.

In response to questions from Mr Mark Robinson, Mr O’Connor said that he would be given details of VIP visits or cross-border cash escorts by the superintendent or his detective sergeant.

Mr O’Connor said that on one occasion he prepared a report after a detective unit car he was responsible for was damage.

Sergeant Corrigan was investigated for failure to report an accident in a subsequent Garda inquiry.