Shatter moves to end 6-year tribunal

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter pushed through a move to wrap up a long-running inquiry into the killing of two RUC officers, saying closure was needed for the families of the murdered policemen.

The Dáil yesterday approved a motion to finish up the six-year Smithwick Tribunal, which will see it produce a final report by the end of November this year.

The inquiry was established in 2005 to probe suggestions that gardaí or other state employees colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC officers Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan in Dundalk, Co Louth, in 1989.

Mr Shatter said details of the inquiry’s work, the number of witnesses interviewed and its expected costs needed to be made available to the public.

Judge Peter Smithwick, head of the inquiry, has been asked to produce an interim report by the end of June, a number of days after the tribunal’s first public hearings are set to commence on June 7.

Frustrated by the expenditure of over €8 million of taxpayers’ money, and the length of the various tribunals, the Government wants the inquiry to end.

But Mr Shatter said there was no political interference in the move.

“I believe it to be both in the public interest and in the interest of those bereaved by the callous murders of the two police officers to underpin that in the motion.”

The minister said Judge Smithwick had indicated his support for the timeframe and that if more time was requested at a later stage, it would be considered.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Dara Calleary accused the Government of rushing through the motion, but the party failed in a bid to halt it.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle argued that the inquiry was also being wrapped up too quickly.

He said: “Given the visit of the British Queen recently and this attempt to guillotine the work of the Smithwick Tribunal, I wonder if an attempt is being made to draw a line under the peace process, say it is done and dusted, there is peace in the six counties and we need to move on to other work.”

Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman warned that any time limits set on the inquiry could be seen as “interfering in the independence of the tribunal”.

But Mr Shatter insisted the new deadline was in the public’s interest.

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