13 May 2012
THE south Armagh informer who told the RUC that Garda Sergeant Owen Corrigan was passing information to the IRA was later tortured and murdered by the republican terror outfit.
Despite the PSNI slamming the identification of police sources in the tribunal, Warrenpoint businessman John McAnulty was named as the informer who told the RUC that he had heard Mr Corrigan was passing information to the IRA.
That intelligence was recorded in an RUC Special Branch document called an SB50. This particular SB50 is one of the core pieces of intelligence in the Smithwick Tribunal that is probing claims of collusion between the Garda and IRA.
It is looking at claims that members of the Garda passed information to the IRA in relation to the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan on March 20, 1989. They were killed in an IRA ambush minutes after leaving a meeting at Dundalk Garda Station.
Retired Garda sergeants Owen Corrigan, Leo Colton and Finbarr Hickey have been named by the tribunal. All three deny the allegation they colluded with the IRA.
Yesterday the former RUC Special Branch detective who recorded the intelligence gave evidence to the tribunal anonymously as witness Z. He gave evidence by video link from Northern Ireland to the hearing room in Dublin and sat with his back to the camera as he spoke.
Witness Z had been a constable for RUC Special Branch in Newry in 1985. He told the tribunal that in June of that year he had a face-to-face meeting with Mr McAnulty who told him that Mr Corrigan had been passing information to the boys, referring to the IRA.
The SB50 on which witness Z recorded this information was shown to the tribunal. Parts of it, including the rating of how reliable it was, have been redacted.
Witness Z said Mr McAnulty was credible. He was not paid for information although he occasionally received small sums for expenses.
Mr McAnulty was a grain importer, and according to witness Z he was involved in smuggling.
He was not a member of the IRA, but witness Z told the tribunal that he had contact with members of the Provisional IRA at varying degrees and levels within the south Armagh area.
The tribunal heard that Mr McAnulty had been a casual police informer for 17 years.
Mr McAnulty was abducted by the IRA on July 17, 1989 from a pub in the Republic. His body turned up the following day showing evidence of torture at Culloville in south Armagh.
The IRA claimed the shooting and alleged that Mr McAnulty had been passing information to police which had led to the arrest of Raymond McCreesh, who would later die on hunger strike in the Maze prison.
It was reported at the time that Mr McAnulty’s details were found by notes stolen from Mr Buchanan’s car following the murders of the two RUC men four months earlier.
The tribunal also heard that Mr Corrigan had been noted as missing from work without an explanation on the same evening that Mr McAnulty was kidnapped.
No evidence has ever been presented that Mr Corrigan was in any way involved with the kidnapping of Mr McAnulty.
Witness Z also claimed that Mr Corrigan was well known among the Newry Special Branch at the time as someone to be avoided when sensitive information was being shared.
He also said he was present in Dundalk Garda Station on at least one occasion at a meeting with Garda inspector Dan Prenty when Mr Corrigan walked into the room. He said Mr Prenty immediately signalled for him to stop talking.
During cross examination of witness Z, counsel for Mr Corrigan, Jim O’Callaghan, claimed that his solicitor had discovered the reliability rating of the SB50 was C6, which would not be a high rating in terms of reliability.
Mr Corrigan has consistently denied collusion and has defended his good name previously in libel proceedings.
Witness Z agreed with counsel for the tribunal that the intelligence from Mr McAnulty was hearsay. Witness Z said he had not been keen to give evidence to the tribunal but said he had in the end for the sake of justice.
“I have been trying to forget these things for the last 11 years. I didn’t really want to come here but I came here for the sake of justice and to get it out of my system once and for all,” he told the tribunal.
Judge Peter Smithwick paid tribute to the witness as a “courageous man” and said his evidence had been useful and that he was “deeply grateful for it”.
Mr Corrigan had been due to give evidence to the tribunal for the second time next Tuesday, but the court was told Mr Corrigan was unwell.
The tribunal is due to sit again on Tuesday.