Security services 'tried to frame a garda sergeant in bid to cover up British collusion’
British security services tried to frame a garda sergeant over the murder of two senior police officers from Northern Ireland to distract attention from their own collusion, an inquiry has heard.
Retired Sergeant Owen Corrigan said claims that he passed on sensitive information to the IRA were a tactic by the British to switch the spotlight from their backing of loyalist paramilitaries.
Any other evidence against him in the long-running Smithwick Tribunal was down to gossip among police officers who had never met him, he said.
Mr Corrigan is the last witness to appear before the tribunal, which is investigating claims that some gardai colluded with the IRA gang that shot the two senior RUC officers in 1989.
Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan died in an ambush in south Armagh shortly after they left a meeting at Dundalk Garda station. Mr Corrigan, based at the station at the time, told the inquiry the only evidence against him was a statement by British army agent Kevin Fulton.
The claims were made to strengthen allegations of a link between Irish authorities and the IRA in the wake of substantiated allegations of British security service collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, the tribunal heard.
The former detective said Mr Fulton continued to be paid by the British security services while in prison serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for armed robbery.
The allegations that Mr Corrigan was involved in collusion were the most serious ever made during a tribunal in the history of the Irish State and the most serious ever levelled against any member of the Garda, he said.
Mr Corrigan said he was not in charge of border security at the time of the killings, but had always opposed RUC officers coming to Dundalk Garda station, for their own safety.
The town was a hive of subversives, coming in and out of the station with documents to gather intelligence, he said.
But he said Mr Buchanan was a “god-fearing, good-living” man who thought he would be saved from any injury during his work by divine intervention.
The tribunal heard Mr Fulton made a statement in 2003 that he was in a house on the day of the murders and a man told him that Mr Corrigan was involved.
His barrister, Jim O'Callaghan, said it “suited the intentions” of the British security services to link Mr Corrigan to the killings.
The former detective said he was effectively in charge of border security up until the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, and was the conduit through which all intelligence flowed.
Anyone who gave evidence against him — which he said was deeply offensive and insulting — would have heard of his name but had never met him, he said.
Whereas those who spoke out for him including three Garda commissioners and a number of former RUC officers knew him, he told the tribunal.
He denied suggestions that he had made up story about being kidnapped and beaten by the IRA in 1995 and said: “I was a victim of my expertise and because I had built up an extensive, elaborate network of informants.”
Mr Corrigan said he made no claim for compensation and although he told colleagues what the IRA wanted from him, he did not make an official statement because he was concerned for the safety of his family.
He said no one can understand now the stress of policing Dundalk in the 70s and 80s. “It wasn't called El Paso for nothing,” he said. Mr Corrigan also said he resented insinuations about his personal finances and that no one ever put it to him whether he got money |from the IRA, which he denied.