Northern Ireland

'I was only doing a favour', ex-garda tells tribunal

A retired garda sergeant jailed over false passports that ended up in IRA hands described himself as a 'gobshite' doing a favour for another garda, at a Dublin tribunal.

Former sergeant Finbarr Hickey was jailed in 2001 for signing eight counterfeit passport applications.

Five went to the IRA, enabling at least two senior members to flee the country.

One was used by armed robber Jimmy Fox, wanted for the murder of post office worker Frank Kerr in Newry in 1994.

Pictures of Fox had been sent to all garda stations, yet Mr Hickey said he had not recognised him in the photograph which accompanied the application "if I had I wouldn't have signed it".

Mr Hickey said he had been surprised to discover the passports were for the IRA. "I wouldn't have thought Colton was working for the IRA like that...if he was, he was only doing it for money".

Mr Colton denies all these allegations.

The PSNI's legal representative, Mark Robinson, accused Mr Hickey of knowing "fine rightly" who the passports were intended for.

Fled

Mr Robinson said he was "pretending to be stupid" and claimed "any reasonable person would have known the passports were for the provisional IRA".

The tribunal heard a second passport application benefited Paul Hughes who had been tried and acquitted in Germany of the murder of a British solider. He later fled Ireland on his fake passport, the tribunal was told.

A third passport went to Damien Stanley, who had been found with bomb-making equipment in England. Mr Stanley travelled to the United States on his passport.

The tribunal heard that at the time he was signing the false passports in 1995 and 1996 Mr Hickey's marriage had broken up and he was drinking heavily.

Former colleagues told tribunal lawyers he was "vulnerable", "gullible" and "decent".

The tribunal is investigating allegations of garda collusion in the IRA murders of two RUC officers in 1989.

On Tuesday, PSNI intelligence alleged Mr Hickey had a role in the murders, and was one of many gardai and customs officers who forewarned the IRA of searches - Mr Hickey today denied all these allegations.