Tribunal finds no proof that Corrigan colluded in killings

The scene of the shooting on the 20th March '89 in which senior RUC officers Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt. Bob Buchanan where shot dead by the Provisional IRA

Evidence shows Owen Corrigan passed information to the IRA — but it cannot be proved he colluded in the murders of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan, the tribunal found.

The Smithwick Tribunal dismissed the former detective’s evidence to the long-running inquiry as untruthful, vague, evasive, and inconsistent.

Judge Peter Smithwick concluded it is impossible to attach any credibility to Corrigan’s testimony when he frequently gave completely different answers to the same question.

Despite evidence he had an inappropriate relationship with subversives, it could not be proved beyond doubt that he colluded in the double shooting.

It was the naming of Corrigan as an IRA mole that sparked the eight-year probe into garda collusion with the Provos.

In Apr 2000, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson stood in the Houses of Common and, under parliamentary privilege, said the detective sergeant colluded with Provos in the 1989 murders. Corrigan denies the allegations, made to the MP by British double agent Peter Keeley, also known as Kevin Fulton.

The garda’s life changed dramatically from that day, he said. His late wifeSheila could not leave the house and two of his three children eventually left the country.

The glowing reports he received from senior colleagues throughout the early days of his career were forgotten.

Supervisors had commended his integrity and honesty, said he was incorruptible, and had a keen interest in supervision and intelligence gathering on the IRA.

Judge Smithwick said Corrigan became disaffected, possibly in the 1980s, with the detective branch in Dundalk where he was based. “I also find that what may have started out as a professional relationship with subversives for the legitimate purpose of intelligence-gathering ultimately developed into a relationship of an inappropriate nature,” he said.

“I do not think that he has been truthful to the tribunal in his evidence in relation to a number of matters.”

It was found that widespread concerns about Corrigan’s “extra-curricular activities”, including smuggling and his relationship with subversives, were ignored by garda chiefs.

“I believe that there were sufficient warning signs such that senior gardaofficers should have taken steps to have detective sergeant Corrigan transferred away from the border area earlier than this in fact occurred,” Judge Smithwick said.

RUC concerns about him were relayed to Garda Assistant Commissioner Eugene Crowley, who went on to become Garda Commissioner in 1987, “but there is no evidence of any action having been taken on foot of this information”, the tribunal found.

Corrigan joined the force in Sept 1960 and was stationed in Drogheda, Co Louth, a year later. He spent most of the next 30 years stationed along the border.

He was in work the day Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan were killed, but claims he never saw them at the station and had no involvement with their killing. Fulton claimed “a friend” of the IRA — who he alleged was Corrigan — tipped off the IRA that the RUC were in Dundalk on the day they were ambushed.

He also told the tribunal Corrigan helped the IRA and destroyed evidence from one of the worst atrocities in the Troubles, the 1979 Narrow Water bomb attack which killed 18 British soldiers.

The agent, who spied on the Provos from the 1980s, claimed the detective also cleaned fingerprints from where a 1,000lb bomb was found in Omeath and once told the IRA that Louth farmer Tom Oliver was an informer.

Two months later, in Jul 1991, Mr Oliver was kidnapped and murdered.

Corrigan went on certified sick leave in Dec 1989 — 20 months before Mr Oliver was murdered — and officially retired from the force on Feb 4, 1992. He has called the claims a monstrous lie.

Judge Smithwick said he was not satisfied that evidence was of “sufficient substance and weight” to prove Corrigan did collude in the murders of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan.

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