One of Ireland’s most senior gardaí refused today to reveal in court the source of confidential information which led to the arrest of a former IRA chief wanted for a violent kidnapping.
Assistant Garda Commissioner Dermot Jennings claimed privilege at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court when asked by Brendan McFarlane’s barrister who tipped him off that the Maze prison escapee would be travelling on the Dublin/Belfast bus in January 1998.
McFarlane, of Jamaica Street, Belfast, denies three charges linked with the 1983 abduction of supermarket boss Don Tidey.
Mr Tidey was snatched outside his Dublin home by an armed gang posing as police and brought to a secluded Co Leitrim wood for more than three weeks before being rescued by the security forces.
In 1998 Mr Jennings was a chief superintendent heading the gardaí’s security and intelligence branch when he sent three detectives to arrest McFarlane near the border.
He told Hugh Hartnett SC, for McFarlane, that he would be concerned about revealing details about the source whom he wanted to protect.
“The source of that information was very confidential in nature and I would ask the court that I be allowed to claim privilege... for protection of the source,” Mr Jennings said.
Mr Hartnett asked by what means the information was relayed and Mr Jennings said it was electronic.
However, he added it was not via a direct telephone call to him, fax, letter or from another member of the gardaí.
“What was it?” asked Mr Hartnett.
“What was the system? Is there a secret weapon we don’t know about in An Garda Siochana?”
Mr Jennings replied that while the information was transmitted electronically, there was a “human element” behind it and declined to give further details.
“That is what I would be concerned about,” Mr Jennings said.
“Everybody in this court would be aware that there were difficult times in 1998 and particular organisations were going through difficult times and, with respect to Mr McFarlane, I think it would be unfair to give any indication as to what the actual source of this information was.
“It is in that regard that I claim privilege.”