Former Garda officer denies IRA rumours

A former Garda officer alleged to have been suspicious that three of his colleagues colluded with the IRA has claimed he cannot recall rumours that they were linked to subversives.

A former Garda officer alleged to have been suspicious that three of his colleagues colluded with the IRA has claimed he cannot recall rumours that they were linked to subversives.

Fresh intelligence that emerged last week during the Smithwick Inquiry claimed retired Detective Sergeant Jim Lane had expressed concerns former gardaí Owen Corrigan, Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton had an “unethical relationship” with the paramilitary group.

But Mr Lane told the tribunal today that he could not remember any such rumours and that the only things he ever discussed with other associates was different work-related incidents the men were involved in.

“I can only say that the only conversation I had in relation to Owen Corrigan, Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton was that we would have discussed the incidents that they were involved in,” said Mr Lane.

“They were colleagues. It would have been natural to discuss daily incidents. I can’t remember any specific conversations I had about them but it would have been natural.”

The Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) produced never-before-seen evidence last Wednesday, as the probe into the IRA killing of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan in Dundalk in 1989 enters its final stages.

The five documents included claims Mr Lane had told other colleagues he was worried the three men were sharing information with the IRA.

After the new material emerged last Wednesday, the Buchanan family called for a new cross-border investigation into the murders.

They claimed the new evidence included in the five documents pointed to collusion between members of the gardaí and the IRA.

They also criticised the PSNI for withholding the information, which is understood to have come to light in the last eight years.

Meanwhile, Mr Corrigan took to the witness box for his 14th day.

He claimed allegations he colluded with the paramilitary group were generated by the British authorities.

And he agreed when cross-examined by his solicitor, senior counsel Jim O’Callaghan, that they were motivated by malice.

The tribunal also heard how collusion allegations had been outlined in a book about the Troubles – Bandit Country by Toby Harnden.

Mr Corrigan was questioned on several internal RUC reports, which included a letter from Mr Harnden asking for help in researching the book.

The author also insisted the book would be given to the Ministry of Defence for approval before its publication in 1999.

Bandit Country included references to a “Garda X” – believed to be Mr Corrigan – who was described as “a well known republican sympathiser”.

Mr Corrigan described killings during the Troubles in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s as “carnage”.

“I wouldn’t say they were a daily occurrence but certainly every few weeks you had bodies lying along the border,” said Mr Corrigan.

“You had all types of atrocities committed by both sides. It was a tit-for-tat situation.”

Mr Corrigan is expected to make his final appearance before the tribunal on Wednesday morning.

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