Smithwick Tribunal extension agreed

 

MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter has agreed to the request by the Smithwick Tribunal for a six-month extension to produce its final report.

The chairman of the inquiry, Judge Peter Smithwick, wrote to Mr Shatter requesting the extension on the grounds it would conclude hearing from witnesses in the third week of November, only a week before the current deadline of November 30th for the final report.

Last night Mr Shatter said in the circumstances he believed an extension was justified. He is expected to get approval for the new completion of May 31st, when he brings the matter to ministerial colleagues at the weekly Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

In the letter, which has been lodged in the Oireachtas library, Judge Smithwick disclosed that the evidence may not have concluded by the end of November, because of a number of new and intervening developments.

The tribunal is inquiring into allegations of Garda or State collusion in the IRA ambush of two senior RUC officers, Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan, who were killed near a Border crossing in 1989.

The tribunal, now six years in existence, began its public hearings only in June this year. Judge Smithwick stated in his letter that since the public hearings had begun, a number of people previously unknown to the tribunal had come forward with potentially important information, which needed to be investigated.

One important line of inquiry had emerged and public evidence had also raised new matters that required further investigation.

The chairman said he now forecast public hearings would conclude at the end of December at the latest. He would also need to allow a period of 28 days after that for parties to file written submissions.

His writing of the report would be greatly speeded up with the support of a junior counsel familiar with the case. “I estimate that it will take approximately three months to write my report,” he said, adding that printing, editing and proof-reading would take a further month.

“I therefore anticipate that I will be able to submit my final report by the end of May 2012.”