Smithwick must interview 115 witnesses

FURTHER pressure was put on Justice Minister Alan Shatter last night as Judge Smithwick warned his tribunal still needed to hear from 115 witnesses.

An interim report on the probe into the murders of two RUC officers shortly after they crossed the border after a meeting with Garda in Dundalk in 1989, also notes that evidence from Britain’s Ministry of Defence is awaiting assessment by the investigation’s legal team.

The interim collation of the probe’s inquiry, which was tasked in 2005 with investigating allegations of Garda collusion in the killings of officers Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan, states that the judge is in no position to give an end date for the inquiry.

The judge said he intends to hear from witnesses in October, and so cannot state that the November deadline for the tribunal inquiry to wrap-up is feasible.

Mr Shatter has said he would be willing to extend the deadline if the judge felt such a move necessary. The stance prompted opposition parties to question the justice minister’s handling of the affair.

Mr Shatter stressed that the interim report had only been released because he had forced the issue, and that both houses of the Oireachtas had backed his bid to impose a November deadline.

Mr Shatter insisted he had no wish to interfere with the tribunal, but was concerned that it had held so much of its proceedings in private and that it had cost €8 million over the past six years.

The 72-page interim report released through the Oireachtas reveals that the British government has agreed not to prosecute any individual in its jurisdiction on the basis of evidence given to the probe.

As well as hearing from 115 more witnesses, the tribunal states it still hopes to secure the co-operation of other relevant people, many of whom live outside the state.

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