Who Is The Top Provo Secretly Named As Ordering The Tom Oliver Killing?

Dublin’s political and media circles were this weekend in a ferment of speculation about the identity of the senior Provisional who four years ago was secretly named at the Smithwick Tribunal as having ordered the IRA execution of alleged Garda informer Tom Oliver in 1991.

The man was identified to the Tribunal as a member of the IRA’s seven-man ruling Army Council but there are strong suggestions that the figure is also a Sinn Fein activist.

Judge Peter Smithwick, the senior legal figure who led the special Tribunal of Inquiry into allegations of Garda collusion in the Provisional IRA killing of two senior RUC officers in 1989, was given secret evidence naming the Provisional leader by the now Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI, Drew Harris.

Judge Peter Smithwick, a scion of the brewing family, was given the name of the IRA leader who killed Tom Oliver

DCC Harris, who was then one of the PSNI’s Assistant Chief Constables, wrote down the name of the man for Judge Smithwick in the course of secret testimony he gave to the Tribunal.

Details of the allegation, bar the Provisional figure’s identity, along with other highly sensitive PSNI intelligence on the Oliver slaying were published in Judge Smithwick’s 430 page report which was made public in December 2013.

The investigation into the 1989 IRA killing of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan began in 2006 and the Tribunal held both public and private sessions. The two policemen were gunned to death in south Armagh as they left a meeting with detectives at Dundalk Garda station.

ACC Harris also handed over further intelligence, all of which he said had been ‘prepared and provided’ in consultation with MI5, the British Security Service. Mr Harris was at that time the PSNI’s point of contact with MI5.

Amongst that intelligence was a detailed claim that the local IRA in south Armagh had not wanted to kill Mr Oliver, even though he had allegedly admitted being a Garda agent.

The IRA in the south Armagh area would have been aware of strongly negative public reaction if he was killed. His death left seven children fatherless.

Seeking clemency for Mr Oliver, they approached the Army Council member hoping to get his support. But he over-ruled them and gave the order to kill the Cooley Peninsula farmer.

As the Smithwick report noted:

“Despite these requests the senior PAC (Provisional Army Council) member directed that OLIVER be executed.”

Judge Smithwick chose not to disclose the name of the IRA leader in his report but it is understood that his identity has been circulating in political, media and legal circles for some time.

The RUC chief handed over two pieces of intelligence to Judge Smithwick which said that Mr Oliver’s death had been ordered by the senior Army Council member.

Tom Oliver, a farmer from the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth, was married with seven children when the IRA abducted and then killed him. They claimed, on the basis of a phone call Mr Oliver made to an unknown Garda officer, which the IRA said it had recorded, that the farmer had been working for the police.

Claims were also made at the Smithwick Tribunal that a Garda officer based in Dundalk had betrayed Mr Oliver to the IRA.

Tom Oliver – his death left seven children without a father

The PSNI intelligence also contained a claim that both Sinn Fein and the IRA were worried that if the Tribunal continued to probe Garda collusion in the Breen and Buchanan killings then ‘specific detail regarding the murder of TOM OLIVER may be disclosed’.

The intelligence provided by ACC Harris came in the form of twenty strands of what was called ‘live and of the moment’ information, which had been collected, he told the Tribunal, “as a direct result of gathering intelligence on the activity of dissident Republican groups”.

The intelligence reports linking the IRA/SF figure to the order to kill Tom Oliver read as follows, according to the published Smithwick Tribunal report:

21.14.14 Strand 17:
“Intelligence indicates that a senior PIRA Army Council member was directly involved in ordering the murder of TOM OLIVER. The senior PIRA Army Council [“PAC”] member had been approached by several PIRA members and others requesting that TOM OLIVER not be killed. Despite these requests, the senior PAC member directed that OLIVER be executed.”

21.14.15 Strand 18:
“Further intelligence suggest that a senior PIRA figure sought direction and instruction from a senior PAC member in relation to the discovery of allegations of TOM OLIVER being an AGS [An Garda Siochana] informant. The senior PAC member subsequently ordered OLIVER to be executed.”

21.14.13 Strand 16:
“Sinn Fein/PIRA members remain concerned that the Smithwick Tribunal continues to disclose possible damaging information. Sinn Fein/PIRA members remain concerned that specific detail regarding the murder of TOM OLIVER may be disclosed.”

The following passage in the Tribunal report was written by Judge Smithwick:

21.14.16 “The name of the senior PIRA figure referred to in this intelligence was provided to me by Assistant Chief Constable Harris in writing during the course of his evidence to the Tribunal.”

Drew Harris – Sinn Fein opposed his promotion to PSNI Deputy Chief Constable

The bulk of the other fifteen or sixteen strands of the ‘live and of the moment’ intelligence dealt with the extent of collusion between the Provisional IRA in south Armagh and individual Gardai based in Dundalk and elsewhere in Co. Louth.

The value and accuracy of this ‘live and of the moment’ intelligence became a matter of some controversy during the Tribunal hearings, not least because ACC Harris refused to supply the raw data upon which the intelligence summaries were based.

Garda assessments of intelligence on the IRA which were handed over to Judge Smithwick were, in contrast, backed up by original reports and Garda Special Branch handlers were permitted to give evidence in person.

The then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan called the PSNI information ‘nonsense upon stilts’, while Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan of the Crime and Security Division, complained about the way the PSNI intelligence was evaluated.

However in his assessment of Harris’ intelligence, Judge Smithwick said he had been ‘immensely impressed by his evidence’, adding that ‘the judgment call that I have made is to attach some – although not undue – weight to this intelligence.’

The IRA in South Armagh wanted to spare Tom Oliver but were over-ruled by Army Council member

Drew Harris was promoted to Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI in September 2014. Sinn Fein, which blamed Harris for ordering the arrest of Gerry Adams in 2014 over the disappearance and murder of Jean McConville, withdrew in protest from the PSNI selection process, which involves NI Assembly members.

His father, Alwyn Harris, a Superintendent in the RUC was killed in October 1989 when an IRA booby trap bomb attached to his car exploded outside his home in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Speculation about what was kept secret in the Smithwick Tribunal report intensified following an interview given by Gerry Adams in 2015 to the RTE journalist, Miriam O’Callaghan.

The Irish Independent reported:

In the same interview, the Sinn Féin leader reacted angrily when it was suggested by presenter Miriam O’Callaghan that he was the “court of appeal” that sanctioned the murder.

Mr Adams denied the claim, describing the accusation as “reprehensible”.



21.11 – An Overview of the ’Live and of the Moment Intelligence’ Provided by the Northern Ireland Office

21.11.1 I now turn to consider the intelligence provided to the Tribunal by the Northern
Ireland Office from late Spring 2012 onwards.

21.11.2 An initial three strands of intelligence were put into evidence by Detective Chief
Superintendent Roy McComb in May 2012; a further five strands of intelligence were put into evidence by him in July 2012; and Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris put into evidence a further 12 strands of evidence, and gave global evidence in relation to all 20 strands, in September 2012. Assistant Chief Constable Harris had more knowledge of the intelligence than his colleague Detective Chief Superintendent McComb, and had, unlike Detective Chief Superintendent McComb, access to all the raw intelligence upon which the 20 précis were
based. An application was therefore made that Assistant Chief Constable Harris be permitted
to give this evidence initially in private session lest his answers stray into areas which could lead to the identification of sources. That evidence was ultimately read into the record of the Tribunal at a subsequent public sitting with minimal redactions which I determined to be in the interests of the protection of sources and/or the protection of British national security. I am satisfied that none of the redactions affected the essence of the evidence given by the Assistant Chief Constable.

21.11.3 Before setting out the individual stands, I propose to summarise some of Assistant Chief Constable Harris’s evidence regarding the background to and nature of this intelligence. I note at the outset that in his evidence, under cross – examination, Detective Chief Superintendent McComb indicated that a decision had been taken not to share this intelligence with the Tribunal earlier in time. Part of the reason why Assistant Chief
Constable Harris ultimately came to give evidence in respect of the final 12 strands was to correct and clarify this. It appears that Detective Chief Superintendent McComb was not fully familiar with the circumstances in which these précis of intelligence had come to be prepared and, probably somewhat unfairly, was handed the intelligence a short time before his appearance at the Tribunal and, in effect, asked simply to go to the Tribunal formally to prove the intelligence précis on behalf of the PSNI.

21.11.4 Assistant Chief Constable Harris is the Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI with
responsibility for the Crime Operations Department. The ambit of this department includes organised crime, major investigation teams, Intelligence Branch, Special Operations Branch and Scientific Support Branch. He told me that he has overall responsibility for intelligence within the PSNI. In this capacity, he is also responsible for interface between the PSNI and the Security Service, the Security Service having primacy in respect of national security intelligence. He confirmed that the 20 précis of intelligence had been prepared and provided
to the Tribunal in consultation with the Security Service. He also explained that in Northern
Ireland, the police service has sole responsibility for covert operations and majority responsibility for managing covert human intelligence sources. As a result, a lot of the raw intelligence material comes through his department and he is responsible for its transmission to the Security Service.

21.11.5 Assistant Chief Constable Harris described these 20 strands of intelligence as “live and of the moment” information. He said that the information arose “as a direct result of gathering intelligence on the activity of dissident Republican groups”: “This was intelligence of the moment, and it is an extraordinary position, one which we haven’t been in before, where we have sought to share live intelligence, intelligence of the moment, with an ongoing public inquiry.”

21.11.6 He went on to explain that this presents unique challenges in terms of balancing the
desire to provide relevant information to an ongoing Tribunal of Inquiry on the one hand, and the need to protect sources, which is the paramount consideration, and not to jeopardise the current streams of intelligence which are of great benefit to the PSNI in addressing the very real threat from dissident Republicans. For these reasons, he was not prepared to put the précis of intelligence in a chronological order or to give information as to the date on which each of them was received. He said that all as he could say in this regard was that the
intelligence had been received in a period “much shorter” than the past seven years and that “other than for the work of the Tribunal, this wouldn’t have particularly been talked about.”

21.11.7 Assistant Chief Constable Harris confirmed that as a result of seeing some of the initial raw material behind some of this intelligence, he instigated further searches of the databases which resulted in other material being retrieved. Further material came to light as a result of separate searches altogether, these latter searches being totally unconnected to the work of the Tribunal. He was questioned closely as to why Detective Chief Superintendent McComb, when he gave evidence in May 2012 in relation to the initial three strands of
intelligence, said that the PSNI held no more intelligence relevant to the Terms of Reference
of the Tribunal. Assistant Chief Constable Harris said that some of the subsequent seventeen strands were received since May 2012, and the others existed as of that date but were only retrieved or processed in such a manner that they could be given to the Tribunal afterwards. Accordingly, Detective Chief Superintendent McComb was not aware of them.

21.11.8 Assistant Chief Constable Harris indicated that he was not in a position to give the individual grading in respect of each précis, but told me, emphasising that he himself had viewed the underlying raw intelligence, that all of this intelligence had been through a process of analysis within the PSNI and that he was happy to stand over all of the intelligence as being “accurate and reliable.” He said that the intelligence had been subject to analysis: “in terms of what the source might have been, what are the secondary sources in
behind that, how […] valid is their opinion or comment and actually just a view on the overall reliability of this, in effect, is this just idle gossip, circular reporting and something which we feel we would have doubts about.”

21.11.9 When asked to elaborate on the term “accurate and reliable” he stated: “we are convinced through further work that the information that’s conveyed to us has been accurately conveyed to us and it is reliable both in terms of the context of how it was obtained and the means by which it was obtained and from whom it was obtained as well. So, there is an element of judgment which is based on experience and hindsight in terms of previous reporting and also, then, an analysis of the actual
situation itself which arose in terms of providing the raw material.”

21.11.10 He emphasised, in using the term “source”, this should be accorded the widest possible meaning and included both human and technical sources. He also emphasised that there may be multiple strands of raw material making up a single one of the 20 strands of intelligence put into evidence before the Tribunal.

21.11.11 He was asked as to the possibility that some of the stands of intelligence were simply echoes of other strands, or echoes of evidence given to the Tribunal. He replied: “we are careful to avoid circular reporting in terms of how matters are expressed and going back into the raw material to make sure that, in effect, we are not getting an echo from, be it media reporting or other conversation in respect of the Tribunal, so that test has been applied.”

21.11.12 He also stated that:
“We are very conscious that we don’t want to bring material which is, in effect, will – o’ – the – wisp or is misleading or just which we have significant doubt in respect of. We wanted to be sure that we were bringing material which is of value to yourself.”

21.11.13 The Assistant Chief Constable said that he had formed the view that the information was not coming from mischievous or ill – informed sources. He also confirmed that the analysis included a process of ascertaining whether and to what extent the intelligence is corroborated by other information or intelligence that is known.

21.11.14 Assistant Chief Constable Harris indicated that the Tribunal would not be given access to the intelligence underlying these précis. As stated in the introductory chapter, this was a deviation from the normal practice whereby the PSNI allowed the Tribunal access to un – redacted intelligence so as to verify that the précis accurately reflected the essence of the intelligence. He explained that this new procedure had to be applied in respect of the “live and of the moment” intelligence: “Given the sensitivity of the information that is being provided, I think this is the prudent way of dealing with this and managing the risk that we are taking in providing the information.”

21.11.15 An Garda Síochána made a number of criticisms of the précis, the manner in which they had been produced and the fact that the intelligence underlying them was not being shared with either the Tribunal or An Garda Síochána. I propose to return to these criticisms after having dealt with 20 strands of intelligence.

21.12 – The Initial Three Strands of the “Live and of the Moment” Intelligence

21.12.1 Strand 1:
“The current Smithwick Tribunal has become a significant issue amongst leading republicans. In the course of the current Smithwick Tribunal, members of PIRA are concerned that individuals associated with PIRA’s testimony to the Tribunal will lead
to other material coming to light. By this, they mean information about past murders and leaks from An Garda Síochána (AGS). For these reasons members of PIRA are anxious that the Tribunal should complete its work as soon as possible. Key PIRA
members are aware that some of the testimony to the Tribunal is deliberately false and is intended to bring it to an early conclusion.”

21.12.2 Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan of An Garda Síochána indicated that he felt that this précis was open to the interpretation that the evidence which was intended to bring the Tribunal to an early conclusion, and which was known to PIRA members as being “deliberately false”, could be that of those alleging collusion. While the words have been crafted in such a way as to leave open, in theory at least, this possible interpretation, I do not share Chief Superintendent Kirwan’s view of it. It is difficult to see how any evidence tending to show collusion would bring the Tribunal to an early conclusion, unless it was so indisputable as to enable me to produce a short report confirming that there was overwhelming evidence of collusion. That has not occurred. A much more sensible interpretation seems to me to be that in providing a version of events outlining how this operation was mounted without collusion (dealt with in the next chapter), former personnel may have hoped that I might accept that version of events and come to a speedy conclusion that there was no collusion in these murders. The difficulties in relying on the wording of a précis are, however, acknowledged.

21.12.3 Strand 2:
“Since the 1970s a number of AGS and Republic of Ireland (ROI) Customs Officers have provided information to PIRA, particularly forewarning of searches and arrests. In this connection, Garda Hickey’s name has been mentioned as has that of [another Garda whose name has been redacted].

21.12.4 Strand 3:
“PIRA’s intention had been to kidnap Breen and Buchanan. The PIRA operation was planned and led by [redacted] and involved other members of South Armagh PIRA. [Redacted] was directly involved in the shooting attack on Breen and Buchanan’s car. At this time there was a major dispute amongst those directly involved as to how the attack was to be conducted.”

21.12.5 In relation to this strand, I would make one observation in respect of the final sentence. As is referred to in the next chapter, when former personnel of the Provisional IRA were asked in a face to face meeting with members of the Tribunal’s legal team why, if the intention had been to capture and interrogate the two officers, this did not occur, there seemed to be some discomfiture with this question and the former personnel requested a break in the
meeting. I now move on to the subsequent five strands of intelligence.

21.13 – The Subsequent Five Strands of the “Live and of the Moment” Intelligence

21.13.1 Strand 4:
“Intelligence relating to PIRA indicates that PIRA had received information regarding Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan from a Detective AGS officer who has not been publicly associated to the Smithwick Tribunal and that this individual had been paid a considerable amount of finance for the information.”

21.13.2 Strand 5:
“Intelligence indicates that this AGS officer also provided information in relation to Tom Oliver and continued to provide a variety of information to PIRA for a number of years. It is believed that this AGS officer is now retired. This AGS officer was
handled as a source by a senior member of PIRA.”

21.13.3 In respect of these two stands, I note that they are clearly intended to refer to the same Garda officer. In his evidence, Assistant Chief Constable Harris confirmed that the intelligence did not reveal the name of that officer.

21.13.4 Strand 6:
“Separate intelligence indicates that a senior AGS member in Dundalk provided the IRA with the intelligence that enabled PIRA to murder Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan.”

21.13.5 This strand stands separately from the previous two strands, and may well refer to a
different Garda officer.

21.13.6 Strand 7:
“Additional intelligence regarding the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Buchanan indicated that an AGS officer played a role in passing the details of the officers’ movements to the PIRA. Intelligence also exists to link a criminal from the
border area to their targeting.”

21.13.7 The comment in relation to the previous strand applies equally in this case.

21.13.8 Strand 8:
“Intelligence indicates that a former AGS officer, Jim Lane, who was based in Dundalk frequently expressed his concerns to associates that fellow AGS officers Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton and Owen Corrigan had unethical relationships with PIRA members in the border area.”

21.13.9 This is a strand in respect of which the Tribunal was able to call direct evidence. In this regard, retired Detective Jim Lane was given an opportunity to comment on this précis of intelligence and stated: “I can truly say that the only conversation I had in relation to Finbarr Hickey, Leo
Colton and Owen Corrigan was what we would have discussed – with my colleagues and myself, we would have discussed the incidents that they were involved in. That would be quite natural, that we would have done that, because we were working together every single day […] they were colleagues of ours, and it would have been natural to discuss the incidents; namely the passport incident and the kidnapping of
Owen Corrigan. We would – it would be – even though I cannot remember any specific conversation I had about them, but it would be natural to say that we would have discussed those things among one another.”

21.13.10 Mr Lane also confirmed that he would have had “very rare” general conversations about what was happening at the Tribunal during the previous 12 months. He also confirmed that subsequent to Owen Corrigan’s kidnapping, he had visited him in hospital in a personal as opposed to a professional capacity, but he told me that he did not ask Owen Corrigan what had happened to him. He told me that there probably was speculation about what had
happened to Owen Corrigan around that time, but he did not remember the exact nature of that speculation. In his earlier evidence to the Tribunal, Mr Lane had already told me that he did not believe the allegation that Owen Corrigan was a mole, and had also said that he never had any suspicion or information that Finbarr Hickey had a connection with the ProvisionalIRA.

21.14 – The Subsequent 12 Strands of the “Live and of the Moment” Intelligence Finally, a further 12 strands of intelligence were put into evidence by Assistant Chief Constable Harris. These were:

21.14.1 Strand 9:
“PIRA traditionally obtained extremely good intelligence from Dundalk Garda station. When in PIRA, [name redacted] was involved in intelligence gathering operations and would have been aware of PIRA’s contact in the Garda.”

21.14.2 Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan stated in his evidence to me that the language used in this précis – “would have been aware” – was speculative.

21.14.3: Strand 10:
“KEVIN FULTON is understood to have received information regarding the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan from a PIRA member linked to a senior PIRA figure.”
21.14.4 Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan described this as “vague.”

21.14.5: Strand 11:
“In summer 2011, ‘Mooch’ Blair commented that he was not involved in the murders of RUC officers Breen and Buchanan as was claimed during the Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin. Blair stated that he was actually engaged on a separate operation at the
time of the murders. Blair also confirmed that there was a Garda spy involved. This fact had been speculated during the Tribunal.”

21.14.6 The point was made by Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan of An Garda Síochána
that there seemed to have been no consideration taken by Assistant Chief Constable Harris of
the fact that this piece of intelligence was in direct contradiction to a piece of PSNI intelligence that indicated that Mooch Blair and ‘Hard Bap’ Hardy “would have been deeply involved in the murder” (March 1989 intelligence, referred to in Chapter 15). However, I do not think that this is strictly correct. This intelligence simply states that Mooch Blair is
reported to have “commented” that he was not involved in the murders; it does not state that
Mooch Blair was not involved in the murders. Mooch Blair may have commented that he was not involved, but have been involved in murders, and in this respect both pieces of intelligence could be correct.

21.14.7: Strand 12:
“During 2011, a senior PIRA Member confided to an associate their personal fears considering the ongoing Smithwick Tribunal, particularly that the AGS personnel that were previously under PIRA’s control would potentially highlight the level of co –
operation previously provided.

21.4.8 In relation to this strand, I note the reference to “AGS personnel” who “were” under PIRA’s control: this is clearly a reference made in the plural.

21.14.9: Strand 13:
“In late 2011, a senior PIRA member [whose name was given as P.J. O’Callaghan otherwise Patsy O’Callaghan] commented that to his knowledge, AGS Sergeant Owen Corrigan had no time for the IRA, but was a gangster who was out for money”

21.14.10 Strand 14:
“A senior PIRA figure had several AGS officers passing information to PIRA including officers of a more senior position than Owen Corrigan.”

21.14.11 Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan described this as an allegation that was very
serious to An Garda Síochána as it suggested collusion by multiple Gardaí. He criticised the
précis as being “extraordinarily vague.”

21.14.12 Strand 15:
“In relation to the murder of Lord Justice Gibson, a senior member of PIRA has since revealed that the information which led to the PIRA operation emanated from the Garda Síochána.”

21.14.13 Strand 16:
“Sinn Fein/PIRA members remain concerned that the Smithwick Tribunal continues to disclose possible damaging information. Sinn Fein/PIRA members remain concerned that specific detail regarding the murder of TOM OLIVER may be disclosed.”

21.14.14 Strand 17:
“Intelligence indicates that a senior PIRA Army Council member was directly involved in ordering the murder of TOM OLIVER. The senior PIRA Army Council [“PAC”] member had been approached by several PIRA members and others requesting that TOM OLIVER not be killed. Despite these requests, the senior PAC member directed that OLIVER be executed.”

21.14.15 Strand 18:
“Further intelligence suggest that a senior PIRA figure sought direction and instruction from a senior PAC member in relation to the discovery of allegations of TOM OLIVER being an AGS informant. The senior PAC member subsequently
ordered OLIVER to be executed.

21.14.16 The name of the senior PIRA figure referred to in this intelligence was provided to me by Assistant Chief Constable Harris in writing during the course of his evidence to the Tribunal.

21.14.17 Strand 19:
“Intelligence suggests that Owen Corrigan engaged in corrupt activity targeting criminals, and was motivated by greed. The intelligence also suggests that he did provide sensitive information to the PIRA and that he did so for reasons of self –

21.14.18 In relation to this strand of intelligence, Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan
suggested that the reference to Owen Corrigan providing information for self – preservation
ties in with the Garda intelligence received to the effect that when Owen Corrigan was abducted in December 1995, he was asked by his interrogators about people providing information to the Gardaí in Dundalk. I have already found as a fact that I do not accept that that was the purpose of the abduction and interrogation of Owen Corrigan. Also, I do not find Detective Chief Superintendent’s interpretation on this point persuasive. When the second
sentence is read in the full context of the strand as whole, it seems to me that a more obvious
interpretation is that by engaging in corrupt activity, he left himself vulnerable to exposure and, therefore, compromised in the sense that he may have had to provide information to avoid such exposure. I do of course, accept, however, that the précis are worded in such a way as not to be too specific, and this does create a difficulty in terms of being 100% certain of the intended meaning.

21.14.19 Strand 20:
“A senior PIRA member revealed that he was responsible for the murder of John McANULTY. Intelligence indicates that someone informed PIRA that McANULTY was meeting with RUC officers. The senior PIRA member was subsequently informed of the allegations and McANULTY was later murdered.”

21.15 – The Evidence of Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan in Relation to the ‘Live and of the Moment’ Intelligence Generally

21.15.1 While emphasising that there was “seamless co – operation” between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI in intelligence matters, Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan of An Garda Síochána, Crime and Security Division, was critical of the précis. He explained that in his approach to the processing of intelligence information, there are two phases: the evaluation phase and the analysis phase. He described the evaluation phase as: “the appraisal of an item of information in relation to the reliability of the source, taken in conjunction with the credibility of the information.” The latter aspect would seem to include the circumstances in which the information was provided. The analysis phase was described by Chief Superintendent Kirwan as the most important phase. He said: “it’s really examining the different strands of information which you have, examining for meaning, highlighting the essential features of it, integrating it with other strands and, hopefully, coming out the other end with a kind of a clearer picture.”

21.15.2 He placed emphasis, in this “analysis” phase, on cross – referencing the intelligence to see how it fits in with other information that the holder has. In essence, he believed that Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris’ evidence seems to suggest that there had been an over – reliance on the first “evaluation” phase and not sufficient cross – referencing of the
information against other information held. In this respect, he emphasised that the PSNI had produced no intelligence received in 1989 indicating that there was collusion, and that thiswas something that had to be taken into account seriously in assessing the credibility of thecurrent intelligence.

21.15.3 Equally, I must observe that very little of the intelligence received by the PSNI at the time of the deaths of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan can be said to rule out the possibility of collusion. There was the one report received by the RUC in March 1989, and referred to at section 21.4 above, to the effect that someone on legitimate business at the Garda station recognised the officer, but for the reasons already explained, I do not think this to be credible. Similar considerations apply in respect of the intelligence report received by An Garda Síochána in the final quarter of 1989 to the effect that a PIRA member had accidentally spotted the two RUC officers south of the border on 20th March 1989. Furthermore, as outlined in section 9.9 of this Report, I have seen no evidence from either
police service which justified the assertion, in then Commissioner Crowley’s report to the
Department of Justice of 18th April 1989, that there was: “a consensus in both forces that the RUC officers were targeted when leaving Armagh or en route and followed to Dundalk.”

21.15.4 An Garda Síochána did, however, within a few years of the murders, receive intelligence which indicated there was collusion, namely the three strands received from the same source suggesting collusion both in the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan and in those of the Gibsons. Chief Superintendent Kirwan himself
acknowledged that this intelligence came from “a reliable source” but qualified this by saying that the source was reliable “in a confined area of activity and in a specific geographic area.”

21.15.5 He also confirmed that there was no indication that An Garda Síochána had passed
those three strands of intelligence to the RUC at the time when they were received. This is an
important point, because in the early 1990s the investigations into the murders of Chief
Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan, which occurred within the jurisdiction
of Northern Ireland, would still have been very much live files.

21.15.6 To illustrate his belief that the PSNI had not carried out an adequate “comparable objective analysis of the information” available to it, Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan identified four strands of PSNI intelligence which he said were contradictory. In this regard, he compared two older pieces of intelligence, which had been received by the RUC, with two of the current strands of intelligence. The first he cited was the 1991 intelligence to the effect that: “an unknown female who worked in Dundalk Garda Station passed information to an
unknown Provisional IRA man.”

21.15.7 The second was the March 1989 intelligence that: “a person visiting Dundalk Garda Station on legitimate business recognised the RUC officers and passed details to the IRA.” The two items of the current intelligence he cited in comparison were: “an unknown Garda officer passed details of the RUC officers’ movements” and “a criminal from the border area was linked to the targeting of the RUC officers” (both, as far as I can make out, a reference to
strand no.7 above).

21.15.8 However, I do not think that all of these strands are necessarily as contradictory as the
Detective Chief Superintendent suggests. In particular, both of the current items in fact seem
to me to form part of the same strand (though I add that Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris did acknowledge that several strands of raw intelligence may make up a strand contained in précis form). A senior PIRA figure can be involved in the targeting of the RUC officers without this excluding the possibility of collusion. Indeed, it can almost be assumed that if a senior PIRA figure were targeting the RUC officers, he would use all of the resources at his disposal to do so and, if he had a source within Dundalk Garda Station, would employ this resource to assist him in his task. Therefore I do not see that these two elements are contradictory. In relation to the older intelligence, I have already expressed the view in
relation to both strands that there is no evidence to suggest that these are credible. In these
circumstances, one would be entitled to form the view that information received today is credible, notwithstanding that it contradicts information which one believed – wrongly, as it has turned out – to have been credible in 1989 or 1990. (I should add that an “unknown female” working in Dundalk Garda Station is not, in theory, incompatible with an “unknown Garda officer”, but if an officer is intended to convey a member at the rank of Sergeant or
above, I am not aware of any females of such rank in Dundalk in 1989).

21.16 – The Sharing of Intelligence Information between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI

21.16.1 Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan also raised the separate issue of the sharing of
intelligence. He said that he was happy that intelligence of this nature should be put into
evidence in public hearings of the Tribunal in précis form, but that it creates a difficulty both for the Tribunal and for An Garda Síochána:
“I am not unhappy with the précis at all. It serves the purpose that [is] prescribed for it. It serves the purpose of articulating, in a public forum, matters of great sensitivity. What I am unhappy about is that that would be seen as an appropriate format to share
information with me and my Department. It’s completely out of the norm. It leaves me at a complete disadvantage, or the people that work with me at a complete disadvantage, in trying to figure out what it means.”

21.16.2 Insofar as relates to the Tribunal, Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan said that there is a double difficulty for the Tribunal in that not only does it not get to see the underlying intelligence, but it is also deprived of the benefit of An Garda Síochána’s proper assessment of that intelligence.

21.16.3 It seems to me that there are two separate issues here which should not be conflated. The first is the sharing of information by the PSNI with An Garda Síochána for operational policing purposes. Some of the strands, in particular those which related to the murder of Tom Oliver which is an unsolved crime in this jurisdiction, were shared by the PSNI with An Garda Síochána. Drew Harris gave evidence that there was less urgency in the sharing of
historical intelligence. An Garda Síochána contend that they have a legitimate interest in investigating the allegation that there were, historically, several Garda officers in Dundalk colluding with the Provisional IRA. In this regard, I do, however, note that although An Garda Síochána was provided with the name of the second Garda officer referred to in Strand 3 above (along with Finbarr Hickey) in May 2012, when he was asked in April 2013 what
investigations had been conducted on receipt of this information, Detective Chief Superintendent Kirwan’s reply suggested to me that not a huge amount had been done.

21.16.4 This suggests to me that an element of An Garda Síochána’s complaint in fact arises from the entirely separate second issue, namely the provision and sharing of information to assist this Tribunal inquiring into historical events.

21.16.5 Ultimately the question of the sharing of operational intelligence is a matter between the
two police forces and, strictly speaking, not part of my terms of reference. However, anyone present at the Tribunal for the cross – examination of Assistant Chief Constable Harris by Counsel for the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, or that of Chief Superintendent Kirwan by Counsel for the PSNI, or for the final oral submission made on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, would be left in little doubt but that the co – operation between the forces might
not always be “seamless.” This is something which does not have a bearing on my analysis of the
central issue to be determined by this Tribunal, but it is something to which I shall return in my

21.17 – Assessment of the “Live and of the Moment” Intelligence

21.17.1 As regards the issue of how the Tribunal is to assess the current intelligence, this unquestionably places me in a difficult position. I do not have access to the underlying raw intelligence to verify for myself the circumstances in which this intelligence was provided. Undoubtedly, this would have been preferable, and it is something which I sought to achieve in discussions with the Northern Ireland Office, the Security Service and the PSNI.

21.17.2 I do have to recognise, however, that we find ourselves in a somewhat unique situation, in which the security agencies of one jurisdiction are sharing current intelligence with a public Tribunal of Inquiry sitting in another jurisdiction. I am told by Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, under oath, that this intelligence had been properly processed such that he is happy to stand over the assertion that it is accurate and reliable, but that that is as far as he can go.

21.17.3 It has been suggested in a submission on behalf of the Garda Commissioner that this “of
the moment intelligence” is “nonsense upon stilts.” That is a serious accusation. It calls into question the good faith and competence of the PSNI officers who analysed this information and, in particular, of Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris who gave evidence that he is personally familiar with all of the underlying raw intelligence.

21.17.4 In the final analysis, I must make a judgment call. I must decide whether, as is urged upon me by some of the parties, to dismiss this intelligence from my mind altogether on the basis that it is a “nonsense upon stilts”, or to accept the bona fides of Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, and to rely, to some degree, on his sworn evidence. In this respect, I have been immensely impressed by his evidence, not only in terms of his professional expertise and experience, but also by his explanation of the constraints under which he is operating, his concern for the
protection of life and the of preservation of peace, and his genuine desire to assist the Tribunal in
so far as he can. In these circumstances, the judgment call that I have made is to attach some –
although not undue – weight to this intelligence.

21.17.5 Insofar as it relates directly to the Tribunal’s of reference, the ”of the moment” intelligence gives an indication that there was collusion. In this respect, I think it is noteworthy that both police services have now, at separate times and from sources which they regard as reliable, received intelligence suggesting collusion in the deaths of Chief Superintendent Breen
and Superintendent Buchanan. In this jurisdiction, I have had the benefit of seeing the three original intelligence reports in question and have heard evidence from the Detective who handled the source. As stated in section 11.11 of this Report, on this basis I am satisfied that weight oughtto be attached to them.

21.17.6 The intelligence material is in no way conclusive or determinative of the issues before
me, but nor is it something which I can, in good conscience, ignore. It is an element to which I
believe regard must be had in my ultimate analysis, set out in Chapter 23, of the question of whether or not there was collusion.

16 responses to “Who Is The Top Provo Secretly Named As Ordering The Tom Oliver Killing?

  1. Pingback: Who Is The Top Provo Secretly Named As Ordering The Tom Oliver Killing? – seftonblog

  2. Ah the putrid world of espionage in all its execrableness. The world of subterfuge, retribution and murder is adjudicated by a subjective legal system which protects the state rather than the individual, operating within the tenet of the freemasons. A tangled web of lies and deceit where we all end up believing what we want to be true.

  3. Freddie Scappaticci has all the inside information on this and he ain’t talking, and the PIRA don’t want him to. The secret dossier stated that 1in 4 members of the PIRA were passing on information to British Intelligence Services rising to 1 in 2 amongst senior members of the PIRA. Did this include the two at the helm? Of course it did. One of these can’t talk now and the other suffers from selective amnesia.

  4. Pingback: A COLLUSION “WHODUNNIT?” | Psalm79:9+10

  5. Hi Ed, this is just my supposition, I know nothing – I’m from Barcelona. Lets just consider the evidence. They both managed to dodge the bullets over the years, well not entirely so, the scary beardy one did have the misfortune to be hit by some lower impact fluffy bullets – same pain, but a cushier landing, whereas the erstwhile youthful drop dead gorgeous one remained unblemished until his untimely demise, God rest his soul xx.

  6. Pingback: Drew Harris As Garda Commissioner Is Gerry Adams’ Worst Nightmare | The Broken Elbow

  7. Pingback: Sunday Times Hints At Adams Link To Tom Oliver Slaying | The Broken Elbow

  8. Pingback: Gerry Adams On The Tom Oliver Killing | The Broken Elbow

  9. Pingback: The Tom Oliver, LMFM Radio Louth Interviews, Part One | The Broken Elbow

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  11. Pingback: The Tom Oliver, LMFM Radio Louth Interviews, Part Three | The Broken Elbow

  12. Pingback: The Man Who Betrayed Victims of the IRA – The Irish Peace Process

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