Top garda planned to arrest Bik McFarlane, court hears

The former head of Garda intelligence told a court today that he would have arrested former IRA leader Brendan 'Bik' Mc Farlane for the kidnap of supermarket executive Don Tidey if had come face to face with him.

Assistant Commissioner Dermot Jennings told the Special Criminal Court that he had received confidential information in January 1998 that Mc Farlane was travelling on a bus from Dublin to Belfast but he claimed privilege and refused to reveal the source of that information.

Assistant Commissioner Jennings, who at the time was the Detective Chief Superintendent of the Security and Intelligence Section at Garda Headquarters, said that he was aware from intelligence that Mc Farlane was wanted in connection with the kidnapping of Mr Tidey and the murders of recruit Garda Gary Sheehan and Army Private Patrick Kelly in 1983.

"Over the years, since that awful incident, any member of the Garda Síochána working in the area of serious crime would have been aware of the special supplement which was circulated as a result of the Maze prison breakout and as a result of the terrorist situation in Ireland at that time," he said.

"If there was any knowledge that Mr Mc Farlane was in the State every effort would have been made to make contact with him. If I was the member of the Garda Síochána who came face to face with him, I would have arrested him," he added.

He was giving evidence on the sixth day of the trial of Maze prison escapee Brendan 'Bik' Mc Farlane.

Mc Farlane (aged 56),a father of three, of Jamaica St in Belfast was arrested outside Dundalk and charged in January 1998.

He has pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Donald James Tidey on dates unknown between November 24 and December 16, 1983.

He also denies possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Drumcroman, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim between November 25 and December 16,1983 and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose between the same dates.

Assistant Commissioner Jennings said he was not aware that Mc Farlane had visited Co Donegal on a number of occasions and was not aware that the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam was due to sign his final parole papers at 3pm on the day he was arrested.

The Assistant Commissioner told the court that on Jnauary 5, 1998 he had received confidential information that Mc Farlane was travelling on a bus from Dublin to Belfast and he was aware that Mc Farlane was a suspect for the kidnapping of Mr Tidey and the fatal shootings of Garda Sheehan and Private Kelly.

He telephoned Detective Garda Jim Sheridan at Dundalk Garda Station and communicated this information to him.

Cross examined by Mc Farlane's counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, the Assistant Commissioner said: "The source of the information was of a very confidential nature" and he claimed privilege for the protection of the source.

Assistant Commissioner Jennings said that the source was not a member of the gardaí, and added that the information had not been received through a phone call or by fax but had been received through "an electronic source".

Brendan Mc Farlane was the OC (officer commanding) of the Provisional IRA prisoners at the Maze prison at the time of the hunger strike in 1981 and escaped in the mass break out by 38 prisoners from the jail in September, 1983. He was later arrested in Amsterdam in January, 1986, extradited to Northern Ireland and released on parole from the Maze in 1997. He was arrested by gardaí outside Dundalk in January , 1998as he travelled back to Belfast from Dublin following a trip to Copenhagen.

Supermarket executive Don Tidey was kidnapped by an IRA gang in 1983 and rescued after 23 days in captivity.

A trainee garda, Gary Sheehan (aged 20) of Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan and a member of the Defence Forces, Private Patrick Kelly (aged 35), from Moate, Co Westmeath were killed in a shoot out with the kidnap gang when Mr Tidey was rescued.

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