Irish Times
1 Mar 2012

THE SMITHWICK Tribunal has asked the Garda Commissioner to provide the date – and if possible a witness account – of a flood in Garda headquarters which was said to have destroyed fingerprint evidence from a bomb factory.

Counsel for the tribunal Mary Laverty said the evidence was taken at a house at Knocknagoran near Omeath in Co Louth, after a “bomb factory” containing a 1,500lb bomb was discovered by gardaí in August 1989.

Ms Laverty was speaking after retired Det Garda John McGee of the Garda Technical Bureau told the tribunal of prints or “identifiable marks” he had collected at the bomb factory. He said he had not been able to match the prints with any suspects from a database of known subversives. He arrived at this conclusion after about two days’ study of the prints at Garda headquarters and the prints were then filed and stored there.

He said he was recently told by Garda authorities the files were no longer available and may have been destroyed in a flood.

Ms Laverty said it was an important issue as Kevin Fulton, who claims to have been an IRA double agent, had claimed the fingerprints could have identified two IRA bomb makers. She said Mr Fulton had previously told the tribunal the two bomb makers had gone into hiding after the discovery of their operation.

Ms Laverty recalled Mr Fulton had also given evidence the bomb makers had been told by a “friend” – whom he identified as Det Sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk Garda station – they could return as they would not be identified.

If the bomb makers had been tipped off in this fashion it raised very serious issues, she said.

The householder Joseph Parker later pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the bomb factory. He received a 10-year sentence.

A former RUC detective inspector said yesterday he had “nothing but admiration” for gardaí in Dundalk, particularly Mr Corrigan. Former CID det insp Gerry McCann said many RUC officers had successfully trusted Dundalk gardaí with their lives.

Mr McCann said he had never heard any suggestion that any garda in Dundalk was “a risk” in relation to leaking information to paramilitaries. He said if there had been any concern about Mr Corrigan “it was unbelievable” that he would not have been told of it.

Under cross-examination from Neil Rafferty, counsel for Mr Fulton, Mr McCann agreed his opinion of a garda might change if he knew the garda was involved in smuggling or had intimidated a witness.

He said he would have to accept that murdered officer Harry Breen had suspicions about a Dundalk garda, because this was revealed by Mr Breen’s staff sergeant, Alan Mains.