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TIM O’BRIEN
Irish Times
31 Mar 2012

RUC suspicions that vital forensic evidence indicating a possible “firing point” for the Narrow Water bombing was destroyed by members of the Garda was disputed at the Smithwick Tribunal yesterday.

Two bombs were detonated at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland in August 1979.

They resulted in the largest single loss of life to the British army in the Troubles.

Eighteen soldiers and one tourist were killed and it was believed the bomb was detonated from across Carlingford Lough in the Republic. Former Garda forensic expert Det Sgt Patrick Ennis, who spent 30 years in the ballistics section, said gardaí had followed proper procedures during their search for evidence and had even visited each others’ forensic laboratories.

Mr Ennis said he searched the suspected sites where the IRA members were supposed to have hidden and had personally removed the forensic evidence for analysis.

The tribunal resumes on April 17th.

Suzanne Breen
Sunday World
18 Mar 2012
**Via Newshound

The family of a young British paratrooper blown to bits in the Narrow Water massacre has blasted the Irish state for allegedly protecting his killers.

Thomas Vance from Belfast was one of 18 soldiers slaughtered by the Provos in the worst loss of life suffered by the British Army during the Troubles.

The family of the 23-year-old Sandy Row man have never before spoken about the 1979 atrocity.

But last night they broke their silence to tell the Sunday World that the Irish state had treated the murdered soldiers like “trash you would discard on the street”.

And they said not even an apology from the current Dublin government could make up for the “Irish state’s horrendous collusion with the IRA Narrow Water killers”.

The Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin earlier this week heard that a former Taoiseach had ordered gardai not to co-operate with the RUC investigation into the massacre, describing it as “a political crime”.

Jack Lynch was Taoiseach at the time of the August 1979 atrocity but it’s understood the Taoiseach referred to was Charlie Haughey who took over later that year.

A horrendous scene followed the two massive IRA bombs at Narrow Water. Soldiers’ legs, arms, heads and torsos were scattered over the ground and in the water. Some body parts hung from trees.

Thomas Vance’s sister, Jacqueline Mahon, said: “It defies belief that the political leader of the Irish state ordered that those behind this carnage not be hunted down.

“As the most powerful person in the country, you expect the Taoiseach to uphold law and order.

“He should have left no stone unturned in pursuing these cold-blooded mass murderers. Instead, he ordered gardai to turn a blind eye and not even try to catch them.”

Jacqueline said her family were “incredibly hurt and angry” by the Smithwick Tribunal revelations.

“Thomas was a young, working-class lad from Sandy Row. Why did the Taoiseach not care about his life?” she asked.

“Why did he not want justice for the five brothers and sisters Thomas left behind or for our broken-hearted parents? What harm did we ever do to the people in power in Dublin that they would inflict this wrong on us?

“We lived in a tiny two-up, two-down house with an outside toilet. Thomas joined the army because there was no other work and he wanted a better life.

“He felt he was protecting the people of Northern Ireland from the paramilitaries – the IRA, the UDA, all the paramilitaries.”

Jacqueline said her brother had been cut down in his prime: “He was only 23 and he wasn’t even the youngest to die that day. It was an appalling waste of young life.”

Murdered soldiers Robert Jones, Gary Barnes, Michael Woods and Jeffrey Jones were just 18. Anthony Wood was 19.

Jacqueline recalled how her family had been at home watching TV reports about the IRA killing Lord Mountbatten at Mullaghmore near Sligo earlier that day when there was a newsflash about Narrow Water.

“We hoped against hope that Thomas was okay. But later that night a young policeman arrived on the doorstep with the awful news. I can’t even begin to describe the blackness that descended on our house.”

And Jacqueline revealed that her brother wasn’t even meant to be in Northern Ireland. He was getting married but when the chance came of a tour of duty at home, he postponed his wedding.

The first IRA bomb exploded as an army convoy drove past Narrow Water castle, near Warrenpoint in Co Down. The 700lb device – hidden in a trailer and covered with straw – killed six soldiers.

It was detonated by remote control from 200 ft away on the other side of Carlingford Lough in Omeath, Co Louth.

Wrongly believing they were under fire, some surviving soldiers began shooting and accidentally killed civilian Michael Hudson, an Englishman holidaying in Ireland.

Other troops quickly arrived by helicopter to help their colleagues but a second 1,000lb IRA bomb hidden in milk churns then exploded killing 12 more soldiers.

The Provos’ South Armagh brigade carried out the attack which was seen by IRA supporters as revenge on the Paras for Bloody Sunday.

“I worked in a factory in Belfast and some Catholic colleagues were happy that Paras were killed,” said Jacqueline. “But it’s disgusting to think that someone meant to be respectable, like the Taoiseach, thought it was a political rather than a terrorist act.”

The harrowing scene of scattered limbs and decapitated bodies led the Narrow Water coroner to tell female members of the inquest jury not to look at photos of the bomb site.

On Tuesday, a former RUC Deputy Assistant Chief Constable known as Witness 68 told the Smithwick Tribunal that the Taoiseach had ordered gardai not to co-operate with the RUC investigation into the massacre.

He alleged RUC officers attended an “acrimonious” meeting with senior gardai, including Assistant Garda Commissioner McLaughlin, in Dublin Castle in 1980.

“Mr McLaughlin said the Taoiseach decreed that the killings were a political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC,” Witness 68 claimed.

“Mr McLaughlin was very firm and said there was nothing further in relation to Warrenpoint and we were not to come back.”

The ex-RUC officer told the tribunal that two IRA suspects – Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan – were stopped by gardai on a motorcycle close to Omeath after the atrocity.

He alleged both men had been linked through forensics to bomb-making materials and to the firing point south of the border. Despite this neither was charged, he said.

He claimed gardai had refused repeated requests from the RUC to interview the men or even be present when gardai re-interviewed them.

Another ex-RUC detective, Witness 69, told the tribunal how it was three days into the investigation before Northern Ireland forensic officers were given access to the site where the bombs were detonated.

When they arrived, they saw cigarette butts, food, and an area of flattened ferns where people had lain. Gardai agreed that the site be preserved but when the RUC returned the next morning it had been destroyed.

The soldiers’ families believe it adds up to an appalling catalogue of Irish state collusion.

Jacqueline Mahon said: “Our family are very hurt and angry. Even an apology now from the Irish government would be useless. We wouldn’t believe a word of it.

“The Irish state saw 18 men’s lives as absolutely meaningless. They treated the soldiers like pieces of dirt. Of course, prosecuting and jailing Thomas’s killers wouldn’t have brought him back but it would have given some comfort to our family.”

March 20, 2012
________________

This article appeared in the March 18, 2012 edition of the Sunday World.

Belfast Telegraph
17 March 2012

It was the event that poisoned relations between the RUC and the Garda for a decade, and today still rankles with retired officers of that era. Sir John Hermon – the RUC’s longest-serving chief constable – inherited the burden of resentment when he assumed the highest office in the force in January 1980.

As ‘Witness 68’, former RUC officer, revealed to the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin this week, the investigation into the Army’s greatest single loss of life in Northern Ireland effectively bit the dust because gardai were under political instructions not to co-operate.

It was the dreadful scenario outlined to me in an overview of the relationship between the two forces when Sir John Hermon summoned me to his office at police headquarters one Thursday afternoon years after the event.

I had gone to the building to get a briefing from the RUC’s then head of information, Bill McGookin, about the overall perception of the terrorist threat from both loyalists and republicans.

While in Bill McGookin’s office, he received a brief call on his internal phone at the end of which he said: “The chief wants to see you.”

Thereafter, for three hours in the presence of Bill, and Bill ‘Tug’ Wilson, his most senior aide, the Chief Constable furiously lambasted the Garda for their lack of co-operation and the political interference which he said had directed it.

I remember him saying “good men are being murdered along the border and we are not being assisted by the Garda in the pursuit of those terrorists who are killing and maiming”.

He and Bill Wilson explained how, in a period prior to Sir John’s appointment, Garda officers working along the border had been prepared to provide details of ownership of vehicles that crossed the border and were operated by the IRA.

But, they explained, that assistance could no longer be openly offered for fear of disciplinary action being taken against gardai.

Instead, every such minor inquiry had to be processed through Dublin, a procedure which took days and delayed the taking of effective action against possible terrorist attack.

Sir John made particularly scathing comments about the then Garda commissioner, Lawrence Wren, who assumed office in February 1983 and remained in post until November 1987.

Such was the ferocity of Sir John’s comments that Bill McGookin prevailed upon me not to use my notes word for word .

The version that appeared in the now defunct Sunday Press carried the import of the views of ‘senior RUC officers’, but not the vicious flavour of their tone.

It wasn’t made clear by Witness 68 this week whether the directive not to assist the RUC in their investigation of Narrow Water came from Jack Lynch, or his replacement as Taoiseach in December 1979, Charlie Haughey, but few would be surprised if it came from the latter, with his republican pedigree and his ‘four green fields’ political rhetoric.

But whoever directed the injunction not to assist, and pursued it for the following five years, until Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, perpetrated a massive disservice to law-abiding citizens on both sides of the border whose lives were blighted by terrorism.

Witness 68 and his former colleague, Witness 69, who explained how the Narrow Water crime scene on the Republic’s side of the border was effectively destroyed, are among the many officers who experienced the studied obstruction allegedly initiated from high political office.

As Bill Wilson said at that Thursday afternoon meeting more than two decades ago – and as others still alive have told the Smithwick tribunal – some individual Garda officers did continue to risk their careers by assisting their RUC counterparts in providing vital details to stop terrorism.

Sadly, though, many lives on both sides of the border would have been saved if the edict from Dublin had never been uttered.

TIM O’BRIEN
Irish Times
14 Mar 2012

FORMER MINISTER for justice Gerry Collins has written to the Smithwick Tribunal to reject suggestions that the Garda were told not to co-operate with an RUC investigation into the Narrow Water bombing.

The bombing in August 1979 killed 18 British soldiers, causing the single biggest loss of British army lives during the Troubles. Two bombs were detonated, allegedly from the southern side of Carlingford Lough, as a convoy of soldiers, mainly of the Parachute Regiment, passed Narrow Water Castle in Co Down. A British tourist was also killed.

On Tuesday a former deputy assistant chief constable of Northern Ireland, identified only as Witness 68, said an assistant Garda commissioner by the name of McLaughlin had claimed “the taoiseach, from the outset of the inquiry, had decreed the killings were a political crime and [that] no assistance be given to the RUC”.

The taoiseach at the “outset of the inquiry” was Jack Lynch.

However, Mr Collins has taken issue with this account of events. In a letter to the tribunal, Mr Collins said he was minister for justice in Mr Lynch’s government at the time of the bombings. Mr Collins said Mr Lynch was “vehemently opposed” to the IRA campaign and had sought to ensure Garda co-operation in combating the IRA on both sides of the Border.

Mr Collins said he would be happy to be recalled by the tribunal to give evidence as to Mr Lynch’s attitude. “I have absolutely no doubt in informing you that the suggestion made by Witness 68 is completely incorrect.”

He said: “The memory and the honour of Jack Lynch deserve that someone who knew him and worked with him intimately during these troubled times should be asked to give evidence before the tribunal. I believe I am the most appropriate person.

“Although I had thought I had concluded my involvement with the tribunal, I think fairness to the memory of Jack Lynch requires that I be asked to come back to give evidence challenging that given yesterday.”

News Letter
14 March 2012

A FORMER RUC officer has claimed that a dozen murders on the border could have been prevented if the Garda had shared evidence in relation to the Narrow Water bombings.

Witness 68 was the senior investigating officer for the atrocity yet said yesterday morning was the first time he had ever seen the report from the Garda investigation.

He said after reading it he was shocked that two suspects – Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan, who were arrested by the Garda while riding a motorbike just a few miles from where it is thought the bombs were detonated – were not charged with the attack.

In total, 18 soldiers died at Narrow Water when two bombs exploded.

“There was devastating evidence against Brennan and Burns. They were charged by [Detective Sergeant] Owen Corrigan on motoring offences. Why were they not prosecuted under explosives or conspiracy charges? Why were they allowed to walk free?” Witness 68 asked.

“If the Garda had cooperated, I would at least have had evidence to present to the Director of Public Prosecutions for extradition.”

Witness 68 claimed another dozen murders on the border could have been prevented.

“If Owen Corrigan had done what I had expected then perhaps those deaths would not have occurred,” he said.

Counsel for retired Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan, Darren Lehane, described that statement as “outrageous”.

Mr Corrigan has denied any allegations of collusion with the IRA and has successfully defended his good name in libel proceedings.

Jennifer O’Leary
BBC
14 Mar 2012

A former justice minister in the Republic has responded to claims made at the Smithwick Tribunal about the Narrow Water bombing.

The tribunal was told on Tuesday that in 1980, the Taoiseach, “from the outset of the enquiry decreed” that the killings were a “political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC”.

Eighteen soldiers died in the IRA attack near Warrenpoint in August 1979.

Gerry Collins said that Jack Lynch was “vehemently opposed” to the IRA.

There was a cross-border element to the investigation because the bombs were detonated from a site in County Louth.

Witness 68, who was the chief investigating officer of the bomb attack, did not specify which Taoiseach he was referring to.

Jack Lynch was the Taoiseach at the time of the attack in 1979. Charles J Haughey succeeded him in 1980.

Gerry Collins was Minister for Justice in Jack Lynch’s government at the time of the Warrenpoint Bombings.

Honour

In a letter to the tribunal , Mr Collins said he ‘”was fully aware of Jack Lynch’s view of the IRA’s campaign of violence and, more particularly, his response to the bombings at Warrenpoint”.

“I have absolutely no doubt in informing you that the suggestion made by Witness 68 is completely incorrect,” Mr Collins said.

“Jack Lynch was vehemently opposed to the IRA’s campaign of violence and he sought to ensure that there was co-operation between the Garda Siochana and the RUC in order to combat that threat to both parts of the island.”

Mr Collins has offered to return to give evidence to the tribunal.

“Jack Lynch and his immediate family have passed away and there is no-one to defend his name and good honour.

“The evidence by Witness 68 has received significant prominence in the media.

“I think the memory and honour of Jack Lynch deserve that someone who knew him and worked with him intimately during these troubled times should be asked to give evidence before the tribunal. I believe I am the most appropriate person.”

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the 1989 IRA murders of two senior RUC officers, Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

News Letter
14 March 2012

UNIONISTS once again asked that Dublin come clean about collusion yesterday after a top RUC officer revealed that Taoiseach Jack Lynch blocked investigations into the IRA bombings at Narrow Water in 1979.

Eighteen British soldiers were murdered outside Warrenpoint when the IRA detonated two massive bombs from across the bay in the Republic of Ireland. Yesterday a former RUC deputy assistant chief constable told the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin that Mr Lynch had told the Garda that the IRA bombings were “a political crime” and that no help should be given to the RUC in their investigations.

UUP Policing Board member Ross Hussey said the news was “absolutely shocking”. He added it will “confirm the worst fears of many in the unionist community in Northern Ireland as to how committed successive governments in the Republic actually were to assisting in the fight against republican terror and saving innocent lives”.

He said: “If the most senior elected politician in the Republic regarded the murder of 18 soldiers as a ‘political crime’ and forbade the Garda to assist in the investigation as a result, then that is a shocking and terrifying indictment of the thinking that was prevalent in the corridors of power in Dublin at that time.”

He said the Smithwick Tribunal “is now demonstrating that the Dublin government was actively seeking to frustrate an investigation into mass murder”.

TUV leader Jim Allister noted that on Monday, present Taoiseach Enda Kenny publicly pressed UK Prime Minister David Cameron about collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

“That a senior RUC officer should reveal that Jack Lynch instructed the Garda not to cooperate with the investigation into the Warrenpoint massacre will not surprise unionists who lived through the IRA’s campaign and saw gunmen frequently receive sanctuary just over the border. But now that the issue has been highlighted yet again it behoves the Republic to be more open about their role in keeping the IRA campaign alive.”

DUP victims spokesman Jeffrey Donaldson MP also alluded to Mr Kenny’s ongoing criticism of the UK Government’s past conduct, saying there are “many unanswered questions about the role of some elements in the Republic during the Troubles”. He added: “Rather than the Irish prime minister criticising HM Government’s approach to the past, it would be fitting for his government to focus on the failings in that jurisdiction during those dark days.”

l DUP MP David Simpson says House of Commons figures show that the Republic refused to extradite 93 per cent of people wanted for terrorist offences in the UK in the 25 years from 1973-97. In the same period, 42pc of requests for non-terrorist offences were granted.

TIM O’BRIEN
Irish Times
14 Mar 2012

FORMER TAOISEACH Jack Lynch decreed the Garda give no assistance to the Northern authorities investigating the Narrow Water bombing in which 18 British soldiers and one civilian were killed, the Smithwick Tribunal was told yesterday.

The bombing in August 1979 caused the single biggest loss of British army lives during the Troubles. Two bombs were detonated, allegedly from the southern side of Carlingford Lough, as a convoy of soldiers, mainly of the Parachute Regiment, passed Narrow Water Castle in Co Down. A British tourist also died when soldiers shot across the Border.

The Garda arrested two republican suspects south of Carlingford Lough on the day of the atrocity, but released them after charging them only with motoring offences.

A former deputy assistant chief constable of the RUC, referred to only as Witness 68, told the tribunal the RUC were keen to get access to the two suspects should the Garda rearrest them.

Speaking via a video link from Belfast, Witness 68 said he was present at a meeting in Dublin Castle in April 1980, one of a series of four meetings when the RUC sought Garda co-operation in gaining access to the suspects.

Witness 68 recalled an assistant Garda commissioner by the name of McLaughlin had told the RUC officers present, in the course of an acrimonious meeting, that “the taoiseach, from the outset of the inquiry, had decreed the killings were a political crime and [that] no assistance be given to the RUC”.

The taoiseach at the time of the “outset of the inquiry” was Jack Lynch, who had been succeeded by Charles Haughey by the date of the meeting in 1980.

Witness 68 said Mr McLaughlin had been very firm and told the visiting RUC officers there would be nothing more forthcoming from the Garda and that they should go home and not come back. The RUC officers responded: “I can assure you that while this crime remains unsolved we will be coming back to see you all again,” Witness 68 recalled.

However, the RUC officers were later told by their chief constable they were “embarrassing the gardaí” and should not go back for further meetings. An agreement had been reached between the Garda commissioner and the chief constable on the way to proceed, they were told.

Witness 68 said the two suspects were Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan of south Armagh, who he said had been linked through forensic evidence to bomb-making materials and to the firing point south of the Border.

He said if he had the forensic evidence which was available to the Garda at the time, he would have used it to ask the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions to seek an extradition warrant for the two men.

However, Witness 68 said co-operation from the Garda side was “nil” and akin “to pulling teeth from a hen”. He said former det sgt Owen Corrigan of Dundalk station had been the senior investigating officer on the Southern side and he maintained Mr Corrigan was known to be involved in criminality on both sides of the Border.

Witness 68 told Darren Lehane, counsel for Mr Corrigan, the evidence available to the Garda should have supported a charge of handling explosives or conspiracy involving a bomb, and he asked why the men were allowed to walk free.

He said Mr Corrigan had the opportunity to do “a great thing” for the Garda Síochána that day, but had not done so and the two suspects Brennan and Burns had later “killed at least a dozen people”.

Burns was killed in 1988 when a bomb he was transporting exploded prematurely. Brennan was arrested in Northern Ireland in 1995 and later convicted on bomb-making charges relating to other incidents.

However, Michael Durack SC, for An Garda Sióchána, put it to Witness 68 that in fact Garda files on Brennan and Burns had been conveyed to the RUC, having been sent to RUC headquarters.

He said Witness 68 should have known the suspects could not be arrested at the behest of a “foreign police force” and the RUC could not be allowed to interview them in the Garda jurisdiction.

Mr Durack said Witness 68 should have also known the RUC would not be allowed to attend such an interview. “It would have been illegal,” he said.

Jennifer O’Leary
BBC
13 Mar 2012

18 soldiers were killed in the Narrow Water atrocity in 1979

The Smithwick Tribunal has heard that in 1980, the Taoiseach, “from the outset of the enquiry decreed” that the Warrenpoint killings were a “political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC”.

Eighteen soldiers died in the Narrow Water bomb attack close to Warrenpoint in August 1979.

The bombs were detonated from a site in County Louth.

Jack Lynch was the Taoiseach at the time of the attack in 1979.

Charles J Haughey was the Taoiseach in 1980.

The claim was made by Witness 68, a former deputy assistant chief constable of the RUC, who was also the chief investigating officer of the Narrow Water bomb attack.

Witness 68 said that he attended a meeting between senior Garda, including Assistant Garda Commissioner McLaughlin, and senior RUC officers, including RUC Chief Supt Bill Mooney, at Dublin Castle in 1980.

Witness 68 said that the meeting, which lasted an hour, became “acrimonious”.

“Mr McLaughlin said that the Taoiseach, from the outset of the enquiry decreed that the killings were a political crime and no assistance would be given to the RUC,” he said.

“Mr McLaughlin was very firm and said there was nothing further in relation to Warrenpoint and we were not to come back.”

Witness 68 described himself as a “bag-carrier” compared to others at the meeting in Dublin Castle.

“I was investigating Warrenpoint, I was junior to all those who were present.”
Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan The tribunal is probing allegations of collusion in the IRA murders of RUC officers

The chairman of the tribunal, Judge Peter Smithwick, deemed that “for better or worse” the evidence of Witness 68 should be given following an objection by a legal representative of Ireland’s Attorney General.

Nuala Butler said the “public interest sought representation” at the tribunal in “exceptional circumstances” and was seeking to have the tribunal “restrain itself”.

“Given the sensitivity of the matter it is not appropriate for the tribunal to hear the evidence, and it is not related to the matters within the tribunal’s terms of reference, it is of no public interest,” she said.

However, Judge Smithwick said the evidence should not be “smothered” on the grounds of its sensitivity.

Devastating evidence

Witness 68 also told the tribunal that the lives of “at least a dozen people in the border area could have been saved” had charges been brought against two men arrested following the Narrow Water atrocity.

Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan were arrested close to Omeath, County Louth, as suspects but were released without charge.

The former RUC officer said he was given to read, on Tuesday morning, a Garda forensic report on the County Louth scene.

“For the first time I am getting an insight into evidence which I find devastating against Burns and Brennan,” he said.

“They were only charged with motoring offences.

“Why were they not prosecuted under the explosives act, conspiracy to bomb? They walked away without any charges at all.”

“Mr Corrigan had an opportunity to do a great thing for the Garda Siochana that day but the fact of the matter is he did not.

“Those two men killed at least a dozen more people along the border area. If Mr Corrigan did what he was expected those lives could have been saved.”

Mr Corrigan is one of three former gardai under the spotlight at the Dublin tribunal. He is now retired and denies all allegations of collusion against him.

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the 1989 IRA murders of two senior RUC officers, Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

Jennifer O’Leary
BBC
28 Feb 2012

The Smithwick Tribunal has heard scathing evidence of the lack of co-operation by Irish police in the Narrow Water bomb attack.

Witness 68, who was the chief investigating officer of the Narrow Water bomb attack gave his evidence to the Dublin tribunal via video link from Belfast.

The British Army suffered its greatest single casualty toll in the Troubles at Narrow Water in south Down in an IRA attack in 1979.

The Narrow Water bombs were detonated from a site in County Louth.

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the 1989 IRA murders of two senior RUC officers, Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan.

Witness 68 told the tribunal that “nothing was made available” to the RUC from the County Louth site used in the Narrow Water attack.

“Our objective was to attain something evidential from the scene and we wanted that at all costs but it has to be said that the help was non-existent,” he said.

The tribunal also heard that within hours of the atrocity and at the scene of the attack, senior RUC officers were advised to “keep the gardai on side”.

“I was given a briefing and told not to discuss anything with Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan because of the risk of a leak,” witness 68 said.

“My instruction was that Mr Corrigan was a risk, that said my co-operation with Mr Corrigan was of a limited nature and at times could be described as obstructive.”

Retired Det Sgt Owen Corrigan is one of three former gardai under the spotlight at the tribunal. He strenuously denies all the allegations against him.

The tribunal has previously heard that in the days following the attack, the bomb detonation site was destroyed, before Northern Ireland’s top forensic scientist, Dr Alan Hall, could gather evidence.

“We were given an undertaking that the scene would be preserved overnight” said Witness 68 today.

The witness said that the Garda responsible for the scene was the now retired Det Sgt Owen Corrigan.

“The place was completely scythed down and when Mr Hall returned, he was enraged.”

Two men, Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan, were arrested close to Omeath, County Louth, as suspects.

They were later released by Irish police who said there was no evidence to hold them for anything other than motoring offences.

However, Witness 68 told the tribunal that a leaked copy of a Garda forensic report, he read years later, said that traces of explosives and firearm residue were found on the clothing of the men.

The tribunal also heard that traces of ammonium nitrate were discovered in the car of one of those arrested.

“Statements, interview notes, none of that was made available to us.”

“We had asked to be consulted before they were released, but that did not happen.”

“Burns and Brennan were terrorists along the border,” said Witness 68.”They were responsible for the deaths of others long after, due to their bombing expertise.”

“We did not want to frighten them into not coming back to Northern Ireland. So we decided the best thing to do was to ‘keep our powder dry’, they would come home again which is what happened in 1995.”

Brendan Burns, from Crossmaglen, died in an explosion in 1989.

Joe Brennan was convicted of firearms offences in 1995.

The tribunal also heard that within hours of the atrocity and at the scene of the attack, senior RUC officers were advised to “keep the Gardai on side”.

“I was given a briefing and told not to discuss anything with Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan because of the risk of a leak.”

“My instruction was that Mr Corrigan was a risk, that said, my co-operation with Mr Corrigan was of a limited nature and at times could be described as obstructive.”

News Letter
19 February 2012

A TOP forensic officer has said gardai were either “unbelievably incompetent” or “deliberately obstructive” in their treatment of the Narrow Water firing point.

Dr Alan Hall was giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin which is probing claims of Garda collusion with the IRA.

It is specifically looking at allegations that a Garda officer helped the IRA murder Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

They were killed in an ambush on March 20, 1989, shortly after leaving a meeting at Dundalk Garda station.

This week the tribunal has been examining the Narrow Water bombs which killed 18 soldiers on Monday, August 27, 1989.

It is believed that the bombs just outside Warrenpoint, Co Down, were detonated by remote control from a firing point in the Republic, a short distance across the Newry River from Northern Ireland.

The atrocity – which was the Army’s single biggest disaster of the Troubles – was designed to maximise the slaughter by placing a second bomb at the point where the IRA had worked out the soldiers would shelter following the first blast.

The first bomb, hidden in a trailer of straw at Narrow Water close to Warrenpoint, contained 500lb of home-made explosives and caught the end of a procession of Army vehicles, killing six soldiers.

The second bomb was hidden in the wall of the gate lodge of Narrow Water Castle and contained 800lb of explosives. It exploded 39 minutes later and killed 12 soldiers.

Earlier in the hearing, one of the first RUC officers to arrive at the scene described it as “appalling carnage”. But it emerged yesterday that the gardai appeared to have ignored a request by a top Ulster forensic officer to preserve the scene where it is thought the bombers activated the bombs.

Dr Hall told the tribunal of his “fury” upon arriving in Omeath with a team of experts to examine the bombers’ “nest” and instead finding it “scythed”.

He described how he was invited to examine the scene by the RUC on Thursday of that week – three days after the bombing.

Upon arriving at the scene on the Co Louth side of the border, Dr Hall described a “nest” of a 3ft by 8ft flattened area of grass and ferns where sandwich wrappings and a bottle lay within perfect sight of where the bombs had exploded.

He told the tribunal that he wanted to return the following morning with a team to examine it so he spoke to a uniformed Garda officer who he understood to be in charge of the scene in what he described as talks with the RUC in which he asked that the scene be preserved.

But when he returned the following morning with a team of experts he said he was “astounded” to see the site had been “obliterated”.

Dr Hall also claimed that the gardai had been “entirely uncooperative”.

“I was furious at the loss of potential evidence,” he said.

“I was furious that having gone to the effort of setting up a whole team to do a job that was no longer necessary.”

He said that the clearance was the result of “either unbelievable incompetence or deliberate obstruction”.

Garda lawyer Dermot McGuinness said the Garda technical bureau did examine the scene before Dr Hall’s visit. He said they recovered a cigarette butt and a bottle which were examined for forensic evidence.

Two men, Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan, were arrested but were never convicted of the attack.

No one has ever been convicted of the Narrow Water bombs.

The hearings will resume on Tuesday, February 28.

BBC
17 Feb 2012

Northern Ireland’s former top forensic scientist said he was “furious” that the bomb detonation site in County Louth, used in the Narrow Water attack, had been destroyed before he could gather evidence.

Eighteen British soldiers died in the IRA bombing in 1979.

Dr Alan Hall was giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal.

It is investigating the murders of two senior policemen.

There have been allegations of Irish police/IRA collusion in the 1989 murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in south Armagh.

Dr Hall said when he first arrived at the detonation site in County Louth with RUC officers three days after the atrocity he could see “a wealth of potential evidence” on the ground.

He agreed with the garda in charge that the scene would be preserved until the next day when he would return with his forensic team.

But on his return he found the area had been “obliterated”.

The scientist said it was like “someone with a scythe had gone over the extended area”.

When he inquired what had happened, the garda he had met the previous day told him they had cleared the scene looking for evidence.

Dr Hall said he was “astounded”.

“I was furious at the loss of potential evidence, and of going to the trouble of setting up a whole team to do a job that was no longer necessary,” he added.

Asked if he thought it was done deliberately, he said: “It was either unbelievably incompetent or deliberately obstructive.”

He said he could not remember the name or the rank of the officer he had spoken to.

A legal representative for An Garda Siochana said a forensic search of the area had been conducted by Garda officers and over 60 exhibits had been collected and sent to the forensic lab in Dublin.

Dr Hall said that if it had been a comprehensive examination then his reaction would have been different, “but when I saw it I could see there was still evidence”.

On Thursday, a former RUC detective involved in the original investigation, told the tribunal forensic evidence was lost when the site was interfered with.

Bobby Sands mural photo
Ní neart go cur le chéile

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