A retired garda sergeant has denied that he was trusted by the Provisional IRA to confirm targets, obtain passports for members and help with a business.

Leo Colton is one of three former gardaí being investigated by the Smithwick Tribunal which is examining claims of collusion between the gardai and the IRA in the killing of two senior RUC officers.

Giving evidence today, Mr Colton was questioned about whether he assisted the IRA in obtaining passports for senior members who needed to flee the country.

Another former sergeant, Finbarr Hickey, who had pleaded guilty to signing false passport forms said he did it because Mr Colton had asked him to.

Today Mr Colton reiterated his denial of any involvement in the provision of passports.

He said blank passport and driving licence forms found at his home during a garda search were there in case neighbours asked him for assistance in filling out forms.

It was put to him that most of the gardai who investigated the incident had told the Tribunal that they believed Mr Colton was involved. However, the witness said people could believe what they wanted to.

Counsel for the Tribunal, Mary Laverty, asked Mr Colton what his attitude to the IRA was. He replied: "I never had many dealings with them."

The witness said he was on the steps of Dundalk Garda Station around the same time Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan arrived for a meeting.

Mr Colton said he never saw the men. Shortly after leaving the station the two were ambushed and killed by the IRA.

Mr Colton resigned in 1991 but he said it was co-incidental that this was days before a disciplinary inquiry was due to be held.

That was to examine why he had written a letter supporting the business of Brian Ruddy, a man with links to the IRA. Mr Ruddy was also involved, the Tribunal was told, in the smuggling of the illegal growth promoter, angel dust.

Mr Colton was also asked about going to work for Jim McCann, an amusement arcade owner in Dundalk after his retirement from the force.

Counsel for the Tribunal said Mr McCann had strong republican links but the witness said he was only working in an arcade.

He said he did not collude with the IRA in the killing of the two RUC men.

He denied that he had used hand signals from the steps of the garda station to confirm to an IRA member that the men were inside.

He was asked about a number of contractions in his evidence and when asked about his attitude to the IRA he said he never had any dealings with them.

It was put to him by counsel for the PSNI, Mark Robinson that he was trusted by the IRA to obtain passports, indentify when targets were around and help with one of them with his business. Mr Colton denied that.

In a series of tense exchanges, Mr Robinson accused the witness of "wandering around the station with ear muffs and blindfolds" to which Mr Colton replied "are you trying to be sarcastic."

Mr Colton also said he had been doing some gardening work for a Mr Eamon Devlin.

Asked about whether this man was the subject of an international arrest warrant for smuggling the witness replied "no" although he later the charges against Mr Devlin had been dropped.