Smithwick lawyers ‘bewildered and alarmed’ by PSNI secrecy
Five intelligence documents were deliberately withheld from the Smithwick Tribunal by the PSNI police, the force has said, deepening the mystery over a profoundly murky incident from 1989.
The ongoing tribunal at Dublin Castle was set up to investigate claims that the Provisional IRA received assistance from a member of the 26-County Garda police in 1989. It was announced following unionist demands for a ‘balance’ to nationalist calls for inquiries into collusion between the British Crown forces and loyalist death squads north of the border.
Two senior members of the police (then RUC) died when they were ambushed as they crossed the border en route to Dundalk Garda station, allegedly afer inside information was passed to the IRA.
The revelation that the PSNI had withheld the documents was described as a matter of “great concern” by lawyers at the tribunal on Wednesday. Lawyers for the two families involved said it now appeared the PSNI may be hiding even more documents from the inquiry, while lawyers for Owen Corrigan, a Garda member who had been accused of assisting the IRA, said the PSNI had very belatedly produced evidence which cleared his client.
John McBurney, solicitor for the Breen family, said there was now “a truly bewildering and alarming array of collusion pointers”.
The PSNI has provided only “summaries” of the five intelligence documents, the originals of which they said were being withheld for “reasons of national security”.
Four of the five “summaries” related to reports that a garda in Dundalk passed information to the IRA. The fifth said a Dundalk garda named as Jim Lane had repeatedly warned of inappropriate relationships between members of the IRA and Dundalk sergeants.
While the first two documents made reference to “a detective” member of the Garda in Dundalk who was said to be passing information to the IRA, the summary provided said the unnamed detective officer in question was not involved in [or revealed to] the Smithwick Tribunal.
Jim O’Callaghan SC, for Owen Corrigan, said this was “exculpatory” information about his client’s alleged involvement with the IRA, and the PSNI had decided, at least initially, not to share it.
Asked if he was prepared to apologise to Mr Corrigan, the PSNI representative replied: “A decision was taken to not release this intelligence.”
He added that he was “not in a position to tell you who made that decision, the circumstances or the context in which that or those decisions were taken. And I’d be speculating beyond that.”