A Garda Chief Superintendant has told the Special Criminal Court that he will not disclose the name of an informant who provided intelligence implicating three Northern Ireland men in IRA activities for fear they will end up “in a shallow grave”.
Chief Superintendant Michael O’Sullivan told the court that he believes the three men, who were arrested after they were stopped at a garda checkpoint outside Letterkenny in the early hours of February 22 last, are members of an illegal organisation.
Desmond Donnelly (aged 58) of Drumall, Lisnarick, Co Fermanagh, Gerard McGarrigle (aged 46) of Mount Carmel Heights, Strabane, Co Tyrone and Jim Murphy (aged 61) of Floraville, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh have each denied membership of an illegal organisation styling itself on the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan told Ms Una Ni Raifeartaigh SC, for the State, that he was basing his beliefs on information independent of that gathered during the men’s arrest and detention, and that it was not based on any statements signed by the men or any information given to him by members of the investigating unit.
He told counsel for Donnelly, Mr Mark Mulholland BL, that his information was gleaned from different “strands”, which included information arising out of meetings with other gardaí, operational information from the PSNI and information provided by a confidential and reliable source.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan, who has over 30 years policing experience and was involved in establishing a garda unit specialising in human intelligence sources, said he was satisfied that the information received from the latter source was “current and verifiable” and that it could be “stood over and substantiated”.
He accepted that, by claiming privilege over the identity of the confidential informant, he “limited” the defence’s ability to test the source’s motives, history or any “private agenda” they might have.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan told Mr Mulholland that the identity of sources had become a matter of “life and death”, and that he could not reveal the informant’s name because “we all know they very often end up in a shallow grave”.
Chief Supt O’Sullivan told Mr Diarmuid McGuinness SC, counsel for McGarrigle, that he believed the confidential source had no previous convictions, but conceded that he had not checked the accuracy of this nor had he met the informant or seen any sworn documents sworn by the informant.
The trial continues on Tuesday in front of the three-judge court, with Mr Justice Paul Butler presiding.