Sunday 22 October 2017

Ex-garda tells tribunal of rumours that maverick sergeant linked to IRA

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

A RETIRED superintendent presumed rumours that a sergeant was a maverick associating with the IRA along the border were known within Garda headquarters.

Tom Butler told the Smithwick tribunal in Dublin that he had been aware of claims in the mid-1980s that former officer Owen Corrigan was getting information from terrorists.



The inquiry is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the IRA killing of two senior RUC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, in Dundalk in 1989, minutes after they left a meeting with gardai.



Former Detective Sergeant Corrigan and two other named officers deny any allegations of collusion.



Mr Butler worked in the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation at Harcourt Square for four years before he was appointed head of border control in the Monaghan-Cavan region in November 1988.



"When I was at Harcourt Square there were rumours Owen Corrigan was a maverick and was associating with people who I would have thought were not in the best interest of An Garda Siochana," he said.



When questioned whether Garda headquarters were also aware of the claims he replied: "All I can do is presume so.



"Anything I heard about him was strictly rumour," he added.

Mr Butler said Mr Buchanan had been his opposite number in the North, adding they often travelled together or sent armed detectives to meet the other at the border.

He said both men knew their job was dangerous and were conscious of their personal safety and tried to take different routes when driving.

"He was a very spiritual man and he believed he was going to be looked after," Mr Butler added.

The retired officer said he had not been aware of claims the IRA made threats that Mr Buchanan would be shot six to 12 months before he was murdered until it emerged in evidence at the tribunal earlier this year.

He also did not know his predecessor in Monaghan, Superintendent Tom Curran, previously told the hearing he went to former assistant Garda commissioner Eugene Crowley in Dublin to report RUC concerns about Mr Corrigan's associations with subversives - but he claimed Mr Crowley kept his head down and never replied or spoke to him.

"My experience of dealing with him (Eugene Crowley) was he was the most articulate and professional officer," said Mr Butler.

"He was particularly interested in subversives."

The retired senior gardai said Mr Corrigan gave any information he had on subversive activity directly to the highest level in the Phoenix Park, assistant commissioner in head of crime and security Pat O'Toole, instead of his superiors, which was unusual.

Mr Butler said there was a concern gardai could get too familiar with informers and it could end up being counter productive.

"My belief is if you are getting information from subversives, I imagine you would have to give something in return," the retired Garda added.

"I knew a lot of subversives by the time I left Monaghan, but I couldn't imagine them giving information."

He later agreed with counsel for Mr Corrigan that a detective officer would have had to associate with subversives to gather information on them and their activities.

Elsewhere, the tribunal was told a cardiologist will give evidence to the tribunal next Wednesday on the health of Mr Corrigan and his ability to give further evidence.



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