The Morris Tribunal probe into alleged garda corruption heard today about noisy metal-grinding work that went on late into the night in a first floor flat of a house in Buncrana, Co Donegal.
Witness Ciara McLoughlin, who lived upstairs, said the angle-grinding of tubes she thought were to become Christmas tree stands went on, assisted by her husband, until about 2am or 3am some mornings.
She reported that welding equipment was also brought to the flat, occupied at that time, during 1993 and 1994, by key tribunal witness Adrienne McGlinchey and her friend Yvonne Devine.
The windows were blacked out, while “the gardai were sitting about, always watching,” she said.
Ms McLoughlin pointed out the work that had been carried out on exhibits produced at the inquiry.
Asked why it had been done and at such a time of the day, she replied: “I think it was to annoy Tom Rattigan,” a garda who was then also sleeping in the same building.
But she did not think it had worked as Garda Rattigan had not complained.
And when it was put to her by tribunal counsel Paul McDermott that it might have been easier to simply go out and buy Christmas tree holders, she said: “I did not know that at the time.”
She believed the implements – referred earlier in the corruption probe proceeding as mortar-shaped – were being made and modified for sale at a local shop.
Earlier, Ms McLoughlin told the tribunal how a detective asked her to “keep an eye” on the activities of her neighbours.
The 28-year-mother-of-six, told the inquiry she received the request from one of two gardai who turned up at her flat in 1993, to apologise for two other gardai bursting into her home the previous night.
The first two gardai to appear at the flat were Detective Superintendent Kevin Lennon and Detective Garda Noel McMahon, central figures in the current phase of the tribunal being headed by former High Court President Mr Justice Frederick Morris.
They were seeking one of her neighbours, Yvonne Devine, a flatmate of a key witness at the on-going investigation, Adrienne McGlinchey.
Minutes earlier, Ms Devine had entered the flat, “nervous and tensed-up,” and asked to hide.
When Superintendent Lennon and Detective McMahon got there, Ms Devine was concealed beside the bed occupied at the time by Ms McLoughlin and her husband.
The two officers – who did not identify themselves or produce a warrant – then left, saying they had “got the wrong flat”.
Ms McLoughlin said to the inquiry: “Yvonne did not get caught. She got the better of them.
“I never asked what it was all about.”
Ms McLoughlin’s father complained about what had happened, prompting Detective Garda Noel Jones and a colleague to apologise the next day – and then ask Ms McLoughlin to “keep an eye out” regarding the two women in the flat below.
When the tribunal’s proceedings were adjourned last night, Ms McLoughlin, who had referred to bullets being used for clay pigeon shooting, was told by the judge chairman: “Would you, like a good girl, have a think about what you are telling me. And tomorrow morning, would you try to make a bit of sense.”
Today he said to her: “I hope you have pulled yourself together a bit this morning.” When Ms McLoughlin replied in the affirmative, Mr Justice Morris responded: “Good girl, thank you.”
There were no further strained exchanges between the judge and witness throughout the rest of the day. At one point, though, the chairman said to Ms McLoughlin about her evidence: “This is confusing me.”
She replied: “I am confusing myself,” leading Mr Justice Morris to laugh and say: “Good, I am not alone.”
Also today, Ms McLoughlin said she had not been able to work out why the flat shared by Ms McGlinchey and Ms Devine had been receiving more attention from the gardai than her own.
Later, because of that attention, and after seeing people going in and out of their flat, she had come to the conclusion that the two women “might be Provos”.
She recalled an incident when a package was delivered to the women’s flat that “felt bulky as if could have contained bullets, and had wires coming out of it”.
Ms McLoughlin revealed, as well, that at the time she gave a statement to a 1999 internal garda investigation into the Donegal allegations she had been “as high as a kite,” adding: “They knew that, but still took the statement. I didn’t know what day it was, let alone anything else.”
Soon afterwards she went into a rehabilitation unit for some weeks because of drugs problems.
She said that at one stage, Ms McGlinchey had become annoyed at her for “ratting” to the gardai.
But Ms McLoughlin added: “We were making it up as we went along. Adrienne was telling me what to tell Noel Jones towards the end. That was when he told me to f-off.
“He knew I was taking the hand out of him.”
Once, however, Ms McLoughlin said she feared she was going to be blown up, when explosives were found at the McGlinchey flat.
She remembered: “Noel McMahon arrived and told me to keep my f***ing mouth shut.”
She went on: “I was very annoyed at the time. But I get over things easily.”
The tribunal now in its ninth week, is examining a range of alleged improper garda activities in Co Donegal during the 1990s.
At present, it is concentrating on allegations that Superintendent Lennon and Detective McMahon, acting with Ms McGlinchey, an alleged informer on IRA activities, prepared explosives that were later planted and then found in bogus garda finds recorded as successful strikes against terrorism.
The explosive-mixing operations are alleged to have been carried out at the McMahon home in Buncrana, Co Donegal.
But those claims have been denied by both Superintendent Lennon and Detective McMahon and Ms McGlinchey dismissed claims that she was ever in the IRA, or operated as an informer when she provided direct evidence over a period of days last month.