Northern Ireland

Smithwick Tribunal: Intelligence report pointed finger at RUC officer

Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan
Image caption Ch Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in 1989

The Smithwick Tribunal has heard details of a British intelligence document suggesting a "senior Catholic RUC officer" was the "likely source of collusion" in the murders of two RUC officers.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed by the IRA in 1989.

They were returning to NI from a meeting at Dundalk Garda station.

The tribunal is investigating allegations of Irish police collusion.

A section of a partially redacted intelligence briefing document for the secretary of state, dated 15 August 2002, was read into the tribunal record.

"What seems to have speak out was......almost divulging in front the parliamentary party meeting, information she had given to ........a year ago that the likely source of collusion in the Buchanan and Breen case was a "senior Catholic RUC officer".

'Feared consequences'

"She did not have any more specific information, about the individual's identity but had been sufficiently impressed by the evidence that she had sought and failed to persuade......not to include the case on the Weston Park list."

The identity of the person making the recommendation in the briefing document not to include the cases of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan on the Weston Park list was not made public.

The document continued that "She feared the consequences for the PSNI if the story was to emerge from a review and had talked........down when he had come so close to blurting it out."

The chairman of the tribunal, Judge Peter Smithwick, was told that the tribunal had been aware of the document "for some time".

"Not a shred of evidence has emerged to support the document," said Justin Dillon, counsel for the tribunal.

The existence of the document was first mentioned on Friday morning by counsel for the Garda Commissioner, Michael Durack, during his cross examination of former Garda Owen Corrigan.

"Were you ever aware of a 2002 document that said the leak came from the RUC?" asked Mr Durack.

"No," said Mr Corrigan, "I was never aware of that".

Mr Corrigan, who denies all allegations of collusion, is one of three former garda under the spotlight at the tribunal.

The former detective sergeant earlier this week admitted that he failed to pass on intelligence he learned in the wake of the IRA ambush in which the RUC officers were killed.

On Friday he told the Tribunal that he could "not see any reason" why he would not have told anyone about such intelligence.

"I can't categorically say that I didn't pass anything on, I have difficulties with my health, but I can't see any reason why I wouldn't pass on anything to them," he said.

Confidential document

Mr Corrigan also denied an allegation that he was passing information to the IRA saying that "God knows I had enough to do to look after a mad place like Dundalk."

The allegation was contained in a 1985 RUC Special Branch intelligence document, entitled SB50, the details of which have only been heard during a private session of the Tribunal.

Judge Peter Smithwick said he would take arguments about whether the intelligence document would be read into the public record next week.

Jim O'Callaghan, counsel for Owen Corrigan, said it was "absolutely essential" for his client that details regarding the security grading of the intelligance document should not be redacted.

"If the PSNI is objecting on grounds of national security it has to be substantiated with evidence," he said.

Mark Robinson, counsel for the PSNI, replied that the Tribunal was "not the Owen Corrigan show" and said Judge Smithwick would be the "final arbiter" of the document.

The Tribunal continues next week.

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