INTELLIGENCE has been received for the first time that a senior Catholic RUC officer was the “likely source” of collusion in the murder of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.
This information, which counsel for the Smithwick Tribunal Justin Dillon said there is not a shred of evidence to back up, emerged yesterday during a sitting of the Garda collusion inquiry in Dublin.
Yesterday one of three former Garda Sergeants appeared and was questioned by Garda lawyer Michael Durack.
Owen Corrigan, along with Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey, have named by the Smithwick Tribunal which is probing claims that a Garda officer colluded with the IRA in the murders of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan.
The senior RUC officers had been travelling back to Northern Ireland from a meeting at Dundalk Garda station when they ran into an IRA ambush on the Edenappa Road close to Jonesborough, south Armagh on March 20, 1989.
No one has ever been convicted of the murders.
Mr Durack asked if Mr Corrigan was aware of an intelligence document received in 2002, Mr Corrigan said he was not.
Counsel for the tribunal Justin Dillon later read out the document which included a claim that a senior Catholic RUC officer had been the source of collusion in the murder of Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan.
The document said: “What seems to have inspired [redacted] to speak out was [redacted] almost divulging in front of [redacted] and [redacted] at the Parliamentary Party Meeting information she had given to [redacted] a year ago that the likely source of collusion in the Breen and Buchanan case was a ‘senior Catholic RUC officer’.
“She did not have any more specific information about the individual’s identity but had been sufficiently impressed by the evidence that she had sought, and failed, to persuade [redacted] not to include the case on the Weston Park list.
“She feared the consequences for the PSNI if the story was to emerge from a review and had talked [redacted] down when he had come so close to blurting it out.”
Mr Dillon said that the Tribunal has been aware of this document “throughout its private investigation, indeed even throughout the public hearings”, and added that to date, “not a shred of evidence has emerged to support what’s set out in this document”.
Meanwhile Mr Corrigan criticised Mr Buchanan, who was in 1989 the RUC border superintendent, for driving across the border a number of times in his own car.
The tribunal has heard that according to Mr Buchanan’s work diary he had crossed the border on 17 occasions between January and March 1989.
Mr Corrigan said that Mr Buchanan’s visits to border Garda stations were “the source of great annoyance to the gardaí”.
“The situation is, the border people, the people who lived there recognised RUC, they could detect an RUC man much quicker than anyone, it’s an uncanny knack they have,” he told the tribunal yesterday.
“They would know an RUC man to see him walking down the street.
“It’s hard to appreciate how they had such an in-depth knowledge, but, more or less, they’d spot them a mile away.”
Mr Corrigan claimed that people were afraid to tell him not to come, and further added that he thought Mr Buchanan’s felt his fate was pre-ordained.
“He seemed to think that what God had ordained for him would save him from whatever,” he said.
“I think the Chief Constable of the RUC took it up (with Mr Buchanan). But it was some part of his religious culture that he believed that whatever would be, would be, so to speak.”
Hearings are expected to resume next Tuesday.