RUC document identified Catholic RUC man as ‘likely source of collusion’

Smithwick tribunal

A “senior Catholic RUC officer” was identified as a “likely source of collusion” in the deaths of two senior RUC officers, according to a briefing document read into the record at the Smithwick tribunal.

Portions of the heavily redacted document were read into the record by tribunal barrister Mr Justin Dillon SC, who said the tribunal had been aware of the document “for some time”.

The tribunal is examining allegations of garda collusion in the IRA ambush in which RUC chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan died.

Earlier, former garda detective sergeant Owen Corrigan had said he was unaware of the report, which was identified as Document HMG151 by Mr Michael Durack SC, appearing on behalf of the garda commissioner.

Mr Dillon said the tribunal had never found “a shred of evidence to support the document”, which was prepared on 15 August 2002.

The allegation about a senior Catholic officer was made at a parliamentary party meeting in the months before the Weston Park agreement in 2001, according to the document.

The document said that an individual had received the information more than a year before, but “she did not have any more specific information.” but had been “sufficiently impressed” to seek to exclude the Breen/Buchanan case from the “Weston Park list” because “she feared the consequences for the PSNI if the story was to emerge.”

Mr Corrigan said he was unaware of the contents of this document, and of another document identified as HMG50 which stated the IRA had a British Telecom engineer working in Newry.

Earlier, Mr Corrigan said the IRA had “panicked” during the 1989 ambush in which Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan were killed, and that the initial plan had been to abduct and interrogate the two officers.

He said the IRA along the border had a sophisticated intelligence operation, and had an “uncanny knack” to recognise an RUC member on sight.

And he said that early 1980s were a difficult time along the border, and that on one occasion during a hunger strike demonstration, protesters had “stormed the station” in Dundalk, and a detective had to produce an Uzi sub-machinegun to disperse the crowd.

The tribunal resumes on Tuesday to hear legal arguments on behalf of the PSNI about evidence given in closed session. PSNI barrister Mark Robinson said there were national security issues arising out of making the closed session evidence public.

Mr Jim O’Callaghan SC, who represents former garda detective sergeant Owen Corrigan, said that the evidence should be made public, as it concerned allegations made against his client in an RUC Special Branch “SB50” report.

Chairman Mr Peter Smithwick said he had already heard the evidence in private and it would form part of his report, the only issue was whether it should be read into the public record.