Garda chief’s request delays tribunal

THE Morris Tribunal, which was established by the Dáil to investigate garda corruption in Donegal, has been further delayed following an application from the Garda Commissioner.

The resumption of the inquiry has been put back by one month to allow for clarification of certain garda documents.

Yesterday, the tribunal warned that it expected the full co-operation of all parties involved and that continued delays would, at the very least, increase the bill to the taxpayer.

The tribunal had been scheduled to resume at the beginning of February, but this has been delayed by the request by the Garda Commissioner for a two-week extension to the deadline for responding to an order of discovery by the tribunal.

The gardaí have also claimed privilege over a number of documents which the force has already lodged. The tribunal is seeking clarification of this claim.

Since its return to Dublin from Donegal, tribunal staff have been distributing documents and contacting witnesses, for the purpose of commencing public hearings.

Tribunal legal personnel have had a number of meetings with representatives of the Garda Commissioner, Department of Justice officials and former Ministers for Justice.

“Further meetings are scheduled to take place,” an official statement said yesterday.

“The Tribunal is determined to discover the origin of any fault that may be found with the matters encompassed by the Terms of Reference, and in that regard feels entitled to explore the involvement of all State agencies which may have had dealings in this matter. Discovery of documents has been made by a number of parties, in that regard, and the Tribunal staff are in the process of actively following up what further discovery may be necessary,” the statement added.

“The first section scheduled for hearing was that related to explosives finds in County Donegal. In the expectation that all parties would be ready, in the aftermath of a comprehensive opening statement, hearings were scheduled to commence on Monday, the February 3, 2003. A number of parties were in the process of making voluntary discovery in order to meet this hearing date.

“Unfortunately, one of the main parties to the Tribunal, namely the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and those represented by him, have now sought a two-week extension of time within which to file an affidavit of discovery, following on an order for discovery having been made by the Tribunal on December 5, 2002.

“In addition, a number of documents have been delivered to the Tribunal in respect of which a claim of privilege has been made by this party, resulting in the Tribunal being unable to study these until that claim is clarified on an affidavit of discovery and then resolved by a hearing,” the tribunal stated.

The statement stressed that in the interests of keeping the bill to the taxpayer to a minimum “our endeavours are focused on the disposal of the business of the Tribunal in the shortest time consistent with fairness to all parties”.

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