“Reliable and accurate” PSNI intelligence documents reveal that a garda not “publicly associated” with the Smithwick tribunal passed information to the IRA leading to the deaths of two senior RUC officers in 1989 and was “paid a considerable amount of finance for the information.”
The tribunal was set up to look at allegations of garda collusion in the deaths of chief superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, killed in an IRA ambush near Jonesboro, Co Armagh as they returned from a security meeting in Dundalk garda station.
Three former garda sergeants based in Dundalk, Finbar Hickey, Leo Colton and Owen Corrigan, all deny allegations of collusion.
The new intelligence, graded as “reliable and accurate”, was presented in summary form to the tribunal by PSNI detective chief superintendent Roy McComb, and consisted of five reports gathered from multiple sources “during the course of the tribunal.”
He said the PSNI consulted with the British security services about the intelligence, which would be “considered matters if national security.”
Two of the reports said a retired detective “who had not been publicly associated to the Smithwick tribunal” had provided information to the IRA about the RUC officers, and about Tom Oliver, a Louth farmer murdered in 1991.
The third report, from a separate source, said a “senior” Garda in Dundalk provided information about Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan. Mr McComb said he did not know if “senior” referred to rank or number of years served by this Garda.
The fourth report alleged that both a Garda officer and “a criminal from the border area” were involved in “targeting” Breen and Buchanan.
The fifth report said a retired Dundalk detective, Jim Lane, was concerned about “unethical relationships with PIRA members” by former garda sergeants Finbar Hickey, Leo Colton and Owen Corrigan.
Last year Mr Lane gave evidence to the tribunal that he “never actually believed” allegations of garda collusion.
Barrister Jim O’Callaghan for Owen Corrigan complained that “the PSNI had intelligence for the past seven years indicating that my client was not involved in the murders of Breen and Buchanan”.
Mr McComb told the inquiry that he could not be more specific about when the intelligence was gathered, and he was not the person who had made the decision not to hand it over to the tribunal until now.
Mr O’Callaghan said the PSNI had “hung Owen Corrigan out to dry”.
Tribunal barrister Mr Justin Dillon SC said that a heavily redacted document called HMG151, which stated information from a “senior catholic RUC Officer” was passed to the IRA, was supplied by the Northern Ireland Office, and that the parliamentary party referred to in the document was the Unionist Party.
“Hopefully further particulars will emerge with regard to document HMG 151,” Breen family solicitor Mr John McBurney said in a statement later. “Undoubtedly for information to leak to PIRA from the South, if that is what happened, it had to first be communicated southward from the north. Therefore the document and the ‘evidence’ to which it refers could have significant relevance.”
“The newly introduced intelligence raises many concerns and opens up additional lines of enquiry at a very late stage indeed. We now have a truly bewildering and alarming array of collusion pointers. Urgent work will be needed to unravel the tangled strands now exposed.”
Later at the tribunal Mr Corrigan faced questioning by Mr Neil Rafferty for former British agent Peter Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton.
Mr Corrigan told the tribunal he did not know a Mr Patsy O’Callaghan, identified as a senior IR A figure along the border, and said that Mr Rafferty’s client could not be believed as he was a paid agent.
The former detective sergeant said that in August 1969 he had volunteered to go to the Falls Road as an observer at the request of the government.
“I have to put it to you, the only volunteer you were is a volunteer for the IRA,” Mr Rafferty said.
Mr Corrigan, who is in ill-health, will resume his evidence on Monday.
Text of newly revealed RUC intelligence report summaries provided to the Smithwick tribunal:
Intelligence relating to PIRA indicates that PIRA had received information regarding chief superintendent Breen and superintendent Buchanan from a detective AGS who had not been publicly associated to the Smithwick tribunal and that this individual had been paid a considerable amount of finance for the information.
Intelligence indicates that this AGS officer also provided information in relation to Tom Oliver and continued to provide a variety of information to PIRA for a number of years. It is believed this AGS officer is now retired. This AGS officer was handled by a senior member of PIRA.
Separate intelligence indicates that a senior AGS member in Dundalk provided PIRA with the intelligence that enabled PIRA to murder chief superintendent Breen and superintendent Buchanan.
Additional intelligence regarding the murder of chief superintendent Breen and superintendent Buchanan indicated that an AGS officer played a role in passing the details of the officers movements to PIRA. Intelligence also exists to link a criminal from the border area to their targeting.
Intelligence indicates that a former AGS officer Jim Lane who was based in Dundalk area frequently expressed his concerns to associates that fellow AGS officers Finbar Hickey, Leo Colton and Owen Corrigan had unethical relationships with PIRA members in the border area.