Thatcher urged to downplay collusion allegations

Smithwick tribunal

Confidential briefing documents prepared for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Northern Ireland secretary Tom King urged the politicians to play down allegations of garda collusion following the deaths of two senior RUC officers in a 1989 IRA ambush.

Adding to speculation about garda collusion would be “playing the terrorists game”, the briefing note to the prime minister said.

The briefing notes said that answers to parliamentary questions about allegations that information was leaked to the IRA about the movements of chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan should note “there was not a shred of evidence to substantiate these allegations which are extremely dangerous.”

The Smithwick tribunal was set up to examine the allegations of collusion in the deaths of the two officers as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk garda station on 2o March 1989.

The confidential notes were among a series of documents relating to the lethal attack which were handed over to the tribunal by the PSNI and read into the record by barrister Justin Dillon SC.

Another document prepared following the publication of Bandit Country by journalist Toby Harnden complained that it was “blatantly obvious that the material contained within the publication emanated from official sources.”

“Material content including photographs could only be sourced via the security network,” the document said.

RUC intelligence reports included 1996 reports about the IRA kidnapping and interrogation of former Garda detective sergeant Owen Corrigan and Francie Tiernan, a business associate.

The RUC files following the abduction stated that Corrigan and Tiernan were believed to have “mounted a scam”, and “were involved in a major property scam”, that the kidnapping took place “without authority from senior command”, and that those involved were later subject to “internal disciplinary procedures” with the Provisional IRA.

Mr Corrigan, who is represented before the tribunal, denies allegations of collusion, which he has described as a “monstrous lie”.

A further intelligence report in 2004 noted that “recent comments made by a member of South Armagh PIRA would suggest he is of the opinion that the murder of chief superintendent Breen and superintendent Buchanan was planned and carried out on the same day, hence any inquiry would have difficulty discovering any evidence of collusion.”