Smithwick set to seek extension


The Smithwick Tribunal is expected to seek a further extension to complete its report almost one year after an initial deadline imposed by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The tribunal, which is inquiring into allegations of Garda/IRA collusion in the murders of two RUC officers in March 1989, this morning heard one of its key witnesses, former Dundalk-based det sgt Owen Corrigan, was unfit to resume his evidence until early next year.

Mr Corrigan is one of three sergeants who have been granted legal representation at the tribunal. The others are retired sergeants Finbarr Hickey and Leo Colton.

This morning, cardiologist Niamh Murphy told tribunal chairman Judge Peter Smithwick that Mr Corrigan required a heart bypass operation and would be unable to resume evidence for another five to six months. She said Mr Corrigan was currently at home but was at risk of a heart attack if he resumed his evidence before the operation.

On assuming office, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter initially suggested a deadline for the tribunal of November 2011. An extension was agreed, however, and the tribunal was subsequently expected to wind up by early summer 2012.

In May the tribunal sought a further extension, and a final report was then expected by the end of October. With Mr Corrigan unable to resume evidence this year, this rescheduled deadline is not now achievable.

Meanwhile, the tribunal has recently been presented with new information from the PSNI which legal teams have described as “potentially significant”. Presented in July, the information suggests a fourth, as yet unnamed, garda may be able to help with tribunal inquiries.

Assistant chief constable Drew Harris of the PSNI has been giving evidence to the tribunal in relation to these matters in recent weeks.

Given this morning’s developments, Judge Smithwick, who has said he is anxious to conclude Mr Corrigan’s evidence, is now expected to write to the clerk of the Dáil to seek another extension, possibly until next summer.