Garda probe underway in the Republic after alleged IRA leak

Solicitor John McBurney who is represented the family of C/Superintendent Harry Breen at the  Smithwick Tribunal. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Solicitor John McBurney who is represented the family of C/Superintendent Harry Breen at the Smithwick Tribunal. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A collusion investigation is underway in the Irish Republic after a police officer is alleged to have passed on information to a senior IRA figure, it has been revealed.

A spokesman for An Garda Siochana said a report was being prepared for the justice minister Frances Fitzgerald, and Ms Fitzgerald said she is attempting to establish the facts as a matter of urgency.

The Republic’s department of justice has confirmed the officer - who is suspected of texting details about two terror suspects being detained at a Leinster police station - subsequently resigned.

It is understood the incident took place within the last 12 months but details have only just emerged.

The text message was orginally reported to have been intercepted by MI5, with the details then reported to PSNI who in turn shared it with gardai, however, a Garda spokesman said the force’s “own intelligence” led to the investigation.

The Irish justice department said: “It would be completely unacceptable if information of any kind were to be passed by a member of An Garda Siochana to members of unlawful organisations. It is understood that An Garda Siochana is aware from its own intelligence and enquiries of suggestions that a member of the force passed on the names of persons who had been arrested on a particular occasion.

“The member in question has since resigned and is currently under criminal investigation.

“The minister has asked the Interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan for a full report on this matter.”

John McBurney, the solicitor who represented the family of a senior RUC officer at the centre of a previous collusion probe said the latest collusion allegation supports his call for a more thorough inquiry.

Last December, the Smithwick Tribunal concluded that there had been Garda collusion with the IRA in the murder of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in south Armagh in 1989.

The Republic’s Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, said at the time that he accepted Judge Smithwick’s conclusions, but angered unionists by adding that within “the narrow confined context of loyalty to the organisation above loyalty to the truth, I cannot and do not and will never accept that”.

Mr McBurney, who represented the Breen family at the tribunal, said there were still many unanswered questions over Garda collusion allegations.

He believes a fresh inquiry could shed new light on the IRA murders of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson in 1987, Louth farmer Tom Oliver in 1991, grain smuggler John McNulty in 1989, Catholic electrical contractor Terry McKeever in 1986 and the Kingsmills Massacre in 1976.

“If this has been found now in the last 12 months then it exposes Garda collusion, right up to date, which is shocking and alarming,” he said.

“This needs to be fully investigated and we need to be informed immediately unless there is a [criminal] charge coming as a result.

“What has the minister for justice got to say about this?”

Mr McBurney added: “We should be able to have a full report on this - how it arose, how it was uncovered, and what is being done about it to make sure that it is not happening in other directions.

“We don’t know which station was actually involved on this occasion but that would be noteworthy information.”

Mr McBurney also said he hoped the Republic’s justice minister would make a full statement in the Dail as soon as was practically possible.

An Irish police spokesman said: “An Garda Siochana is currently investigating the matter.

“As requested, An Garda Siochana will provide a full report on the matter to the minister for justice.

“As the investigation is ongoing it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

The PSNI has declined to comment.