Irish Times
2 Mar 2012

THERE WERE heated exchanges at the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday as former Garda commissioner Pat Byrne said he stood over an inquiry into alleged Garda /IRA collusion, which had failed to interview a number of people who claimed to have useful information.

The tribunal was told the inquiry conducted by det chief supt Seán Camon failed to fully explore alleged links between former det sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk Garda station and the IRA. Giving evidence yesterday Mr Byrne said he had ordered the inquiry after allegations of Garda/ IRA collusion in the killings of 12 people surfaced in the media, in the Dáil and in the Westminster parliament in 2000.

The media reports were described as a book by author and journalist Toby Harnden and a report in The Irish Times by journalist Kevin Myers. Fine Gael politician Jim Higgins had told the Dáil he had the names of two gardaí implicated in the collusion allegations while DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson named a former member of Dundalk gardaí under House of Commons privilege.

Giving evidence yesterday, Mr Byrne rejected a suggestion by Justin Dillon SC, for the tribunal, that the Camon inquiry was less than “complete and comprehensive” as it had failed to interview those politicians who claimed to have pertinent information.

In a lengthy and at times terse exchange, Mr Byrne said Mr Camon had already known what the politicians had to say. “His report was acceptable in all aspects. It was my understanding he knew the information they had,” he said.

However, Mr Dillon repeatedly asked Mr Byrne how Mr Camon could have concluded he knew what the politicians had to say, without actually speaking to them. “We dealt with intelligence, we dealt with facts. Politicians often say things to other politicians for different reasons,” Mr Byrne said.

In one exchange after Mr Dillon appeared to express exasperation, Mr Byrne responded: “Don’t dismiss me with your hand”.

Returning to his cross-examination in the afternoon, Mr Dillon said the garda named in the House of Commons by Jeffrey Donaldson was former det sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk Garda station.

He asked Mr Byrne how the Camon report could have failed to report in detail on Mr Corrigan’s alleged association with the IRA, of which there were Garda intelligence reports. He referred to the “failure” of the Camon report to explore a case in which a witness was intimidated, allegedly by the IRA, and in which Mr Corrigan was a defendant.

Mr Dillon also referred to the Camon report’s failure to explore in detail Mr Corrigan’s kidnapping and beating, allegedly over a smuggling debt of £35,000 to the IRA.

Mr Dillon also referred to the association of Mr Corrigan with Francie Tierney, whom the tribunal has heard was an associate of the IRA. The tribunal continues today.