Former Garda rejects Smithwick findings

Former Garda rejects Smithwick findings

A former Garda has rejected the findings of a tribunal that he was trusted by Provos and helped members get their hands on false passports

Retired Garda sergeant Leo Colton was one of three named officers cleared by the Smithwick Tribunal of colluding with the IRA on the day Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan were murdered.

But he dismissed other findings against him by Judge Peter Smithwick.

“Retired Sergeant 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,” he said in a statement issued through Dundalk based solicitors Dermot Lavery and Co.

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

Judge Smithwick found Mr Colton assisted the Provisional IRA in 1995 and 1996 by getting his former colleague, Finbarr Hickey, sign false passport applications.

“This is a relatively significant form of assistance and suggests to me that members of the Provisional IRA reposed considerable trust in Mr Colton at that point,” the judge said.

But he added he did not think there was sufficient evidence to establish there was a relationship between Mr Colton and the Provisional IRA as far back as 1990.

Judge Smithwick also did accept that Mr Colton did not know a Dundalk man had a criminal conviction or criminal associations when he certified that he was eligible for a trade plate.

Mr Colton resigned in 1991 days before a disciplinary inquiry was due to be held against him over the issuing of the trade plate.

The former Garda was on duty in Dundalk on March 20, 1989, the day the RUC officers were ambushed.

However the tribunal found neither Mr Colton or two other former gardaí questioned – Mr Hickey or Owen Corrigan – were involved with any collusion on the day of the double murder.

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