Top Garda claims ‘IRA mole’ saved many lives

Smithwick tribunal

A former assistant garda commissioner said that a detective sergeant accused of collusion “turned up the goods” on the IRA, uncovering bomb factories along the border, and along with his team was “responsible for saving an awful lot of lives.”Photo of Smithwick tribunal

Mr Joe Ainsworth said any allegation that a Garda was an IRA mole “would, should and must be the subject of an investigation.”

The tribunal was set up to look at allegations of Garda collusion in the IRA ambush in which senior RUC officers chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan were killed.

Former detective sergeant Mr Owen Corrigan has described the allegation that he was a “mole” as a “monstrous lie”.

Mr Ainsworth contradicted an earlier witness who said Mr Corrigan was on “first name terms” with RUC chief constable Sir Jack Hermon, saying Garda escorts for Mr Hermon would not travel in the same car as the RUC chief.

Instead, a Garda escort from Dublin would meet Mr Hermon at the border, and follow his vehicle which it was in the south to provide security cover.

Later, the tribunal granted increased representation to Belfast republican Freddy Scappaticci. The chairman said that in addition to being allowed representation when his own name was mentioned in evidence, Mr Scappaticci’s lawyers could also attend whenever evidence was given referring to a British agent codenamed Stakeknife.

Mr Scappaticci has “consistently denied” that he is the British agent known as Stakeknife, or was Mr Corrigan’s IRA handler, or had any involvement in the the abduction of Mr Tom Oliver, murdered by the IRA in 1991, the chairman said.

Lawyers for Mr Scappaticci said they wanted to question ex-detective garda Tom Fox, who last week described British agent Peter Keeley as “a spacer”.

A former RUC detective constable identified only as “Witness 9” said he was warned by a now-deceased Garda superintendent John McMenamin “that I should be careful if I was ever in the his [Corrigan’s] company as to what was discussed.”

Other senior RUC officers including a chief superintendent and a detective inspector in Special Branch had said they trusted Mr Corrigan, said Mr Michael Durack, representing the Garda commissioner.

Witness 18 described Harry Breen was “a gentleman. He was very courteous, he treated everyone as equal”, and Bob Buchanan as “a gentleman” and “a true Christian”.

“His view of life, can I just say this, it’s preordained by God what will happen, and I can’t do anything about it,” the witness said.

Detective garda Edmund Sheridan said he was never aware of any collusion or mole, and did not believe the IRA would have needed IRA help to carry out any operatrion.

Mr Sheridan said he had been kidnapped by the IRA and held for six hours after he was stopped at a border checkpoint in 1975.

“They knew who I was, I didn’t have to identify myself,” he said.

Earlier, the hearing got off to stormy start when the chairman tribunal lashed out at a barrister representing the Garda commissioner for “obstructing” the inquiry’s work by keeping him waiting.

Former district court president Peter Smithwick said he had been kept waiting as barrister Michael Durack SC consulted with Mr Ainsworth, the first witness.

“I am very displeased about it and I hope it will not happen again, the judge said.