Europe

Smithwick Tribunal: Owen Corrigan rejects criticism

Former Garda Det Sgt Owen Corrigan leaving the Smithwick Tribunal
Image caption Owen Corrigan rejected the tribunal's finding that he had an "inappropriate" relationship with the IRA

A former Irish policeman who was criticised by the Smithwick Tribunal, but cleared of colluding in murder, has rejected some of the judge's findings.

Former Garda Det Sgt Owen Corrigan was one of three Irish policemen the tribunal questioned about the murders of two Northern Ireland policemen.

The IRA killed Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in 1989.

Mr Corrigan has rejected the tribunal's finding that he had an "inappropriate" relationship with the Provisional IRA.

'Suspicion'

He added that he did not believe that any member of An Garda Síochána (Irish police)colluded in the murder of the two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers.

"Judge Smithwick's finding has now placed a cloud of suspicion over all former members of Dundalk Garda station in circumstances where there is no direct evidence," Mr Corrigan said.

The Smithwick Tribunal, an eight-year public inquiry into claims that Irish police assisted the IRA gunmen, found that there was Garda collusion in the murders.

Tribunal chairman Judge Peter Smithwick criticised Mr Corrigan in his final report, saying the former officer had been evasive during his testimony to the inquiry.

The judge said there was some evidence that Mr Corrigan had previously passed information to the IRA, but he found that the evidence was "not of sufficient substance and weight" to establish any collusion in the murders of the two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers.

"I also find that what may have started out as a professional relationship with subversives for the legitimate purpose of intelligence-gathering ultimately developed into a relationship of an inappropriate nature," the judge added in his final report.

'Intimidation'

In a statement issued through his solicitors, Mr Corrigan rejected those criticisms, but welcomed the fact that Judge Smithwick had not made a finding of collusion against him.

Image caption Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan were murdered by the IRA in 1989

"I do not accept, however, his finding that I had an inappropriate relationship with the Provisional IRA," Mr Corrigan said.

"All my dealings with PIRA were for the purpose of gathering information and/or intelligence to support the gardaí (Irish police) in defending the state and its people during the Troubles."

Mr Corrigan said that for 32 years he served as a police officer along the Irish border, during a time of unprecedented violence.

"I served my force and my country to the best of my ability during a time when the campaign of violence by the Provisional IRA was at its height," Mr Corrigan said.

"I suffered considerable violence and intimidation with 'wanted for treason' posters of me erected by republicans in Dundalk," he added.

'Triggered'

The two RUC officers were shot dead on 20 March 1989 as they returned to Northern Ireland following a meeting with Irish police in Dundalk Garda station.

They were targeted by the IRA in south Armagh shortly after crossing the border.

The tribunal concluded that murders were triggered by the leaking of information about the two RUC officers' movements to the IRA gang, and that the information was leaked from Dundalk Garda station.

However, Judge Smithwick's report did not identify what individual or individuals were responsible for the leak.

The other two Dundalk-based Garda officers who featured heavily in the tribunal's investigations were Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton. They were also cleared of collusion.

False passports

The tribunal concluded Mr Hickey was not on duty on the day of the murders and was not in a position to pass information to the IRA

Judge Smithwick found that while Mr Colton asked a colleague to sign false passport applications for the IRA in 1995 and 1996, the evidence did not establish that he had colluded in the murders of the two officers.

A separate statement issued through Mr Colton's solicitors said: "Retired Sgt Leo Colton respects the integrity and the hard work carried out by the chairman and the tribunal team but totally rejects the finding that he was involved with the IRA.

"Leo Colton was not, is not and never would be involved with the IRA or any other subversive organisation."

More on this story