Phone-tap found near border

Smithwick tribunal

Three telecommunications engineers have given evidence about alleged IRA wiretaps on Garda-RUC communications to the Smithwick tribunal, including a phone tap discovered close to the border in the early 1980s.

William Prendergast, who worked in the investigative Unit of An Post, told the tribunal that he recalled an occasion when he was told of a tap in the telephone exchange in Dundalk.

Mr Prendergast said his recollection was that he was told a jumper had been found running from an unassigned line.
“My recollection is it was on a spare set,” he said. “It was not assigned.”
Mr Prendergast said that he would be accompanied by a detective sergeant when he interviewed telecom staff about the discovery, in case it was necessary to make a statement.
Mr Prendergast could not recall if he had spoken to the engineer who made the discovery.
Mr Prendergast said as the wire was unassigned, the investigation was brief. “There was no evidence of any serious interception or wrongdoing,” he said.
John O’Halloran, a former Eircom engineer now working as a consultant, said that “if there had been any whisper of IRA tapping in Dundalk, it would have been huge,” he said.
Asked about an article in the Phoenix magazine on 4 November 2011, he said the method described in the article was “a practical impossibility”.
Mr O’Halloran said he would have been informed of a report of a telephone interception as reported in the magazine, but was never told of such a case.
Telecom engineer Thomas Cumisky said that on an occasion he had been called to investigate a telephone wire “very adjacent to the border”, he discovered a wire running from a telephone pole to the ground .
The wire, which was then buried, headed north, he said.
“There was an interception on the pole,” Mr Cumisky said. “It wasn’t a telecom eireann wire.”
Mr Cumisky said he thought the discovery had been made in the early 1980s.
The tribunal is looking at claims that a leak from Dundalk garda station led tot he murders of two senior RUC officers by the IRA. Chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan were killed in an ambush as they returned from a meeting with Gardai on 20 March 1989.