Monday 23 October 2017

Smithwick Tribunal: IRA terror bosses claim false information being fed to inquiry

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

IRA terror bosses have claimed that false information is being fed to a collusion inquiry into the deaths of two senior RUC officers to bring it to an end.

Intelligence documents from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said Provisional (PIRA) chiefs believe false testimony is being given at the Smithwick Tribunal to ensure it wraps up investigations quickly.

Provo leaders fear that the longer the inquiry runs, the more information it will uncover about collusion involving gardai and customs officers.

A precis read by PSNI detective chief superintendent Roy McComb alleged that since the 1970s a number of gardai and customs officers based in the Republic have provided information to the Provos, particularly forewarning of searches and arrests.

A document, dated June 2009, maintained that former Garda sergeant Finbarr Hickey "was responsible for the passing of information to PIRA, which resulted in the murder of Chief Superintendent (Harry) Breen and Superintendent (Bob) Buchanan", but the informer later denied giving the information.

The disgraced Garda - who was jailed for the production of false passports - denies the allegation.

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion over the IRA murders of senior RUC officers Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan on the Irish border in 1989, minutes after a Garda meeting.

Three named gardai - retired detective garda sergeant Owen Corrigan and former sergeants Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey - deny any collusion.

Mr McComb told the tribunal that one of the intelligence documents had been received in the last 12 months.

He refused to reveal the source of the material or answer any questions on it, but maintained its contents were "credible, reliable and accurate".

"The current Smithwick Tribunal has become a significant issue amongst leading republicans," it stated.

"In the course of the current Smithwick Tribunal, members of PIRA are concerned that individuals associated with PIRA's testimony to the tribunal will lead to other material coming to light.

"By this, these mean information about past members and leaks from An Garda Siochana.

"For these reasons members of PIRA are anxious that the tribunal should complete its work as soon as possible.

"Key PIRA members are aware that some testimony to the tribunal is deliberately false and is intended to bring it to an early conclusion."

The document maintained that since the 1970s a number of An Garda Siochana and Republic of Ireland customs officers have provided information to the Provos, particularly forewarning of searches and arrests.

It said Garda Hickey and another unidentified person had been mentioned in connection with this.

Intelligence sources found it had been the terror group's intention to kidnap Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan - but the names of the person or people who planned, led and were directly involved in the shooting of the men were redacted from the document.

"At this time there was a major dispute amongst those directly involved as to how the attack was to be conducted," it said

Tribunal staff met three people with knowledge of the attack before it began hearing evidence in public last year.

The second document claimed a source alleged Hickey passed information to the Provos which resulted in the murder of the RUC officers.

"When questioned by CID over the information he had given to uniformed police, he (the source) denied giving the information and was released without charge," it added.

Earlier, Fionnuala O'Sullivan, counsel for Hickey, objected to the documents being revealed in the public hearing.

She said her client was horrified when he saw the allegations for the first time last week and she was not in a position to cross-examine as there was no further information as to who made the claim.

"We cannot say of its hearsay, double hearsay, triple hearsay, gossip or innuendo," she said.

Judge Peter Smithwick ruled against her application.

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