There is intense pressure to sign off on an agreed document by Monday.
Should this extremely tight deadline be met, the inquiry’s senior counsel will have until Wednesday to decide on whether the report will stand up to legal scrutiny or must be scrapped.
As one inquiry member put it, while there are no red lights, amber ones are flashing, with four options:
- The report will be published on time: In the best-case scenario, the inquiry will agree a final version this weekend.
If all goes to plan, the senior counsel will give the green light to sending the report out to anyone named in the document, on Wednesday.
This date is key to the inquiry’s future. It is directly linked to the new, January 27 publication date — just 24 hours before the January 28 cut-off point — due to a two- to three-week legal rights-of-reply period and the final, legal rubber-stamping on January 4, prior to a legally required, three-week cooling-off period.
- The report will need another significant rewrite: In the next-best scenario, the senior counsel will note that the report is far from perfect — but, crucially, can be repaired.
In this situation, the document will still be sent to individuals named in the investigation, while relatively minor changes are made.
This process would allow the inquiry to still meet its extremely tight schedule, while the file is updated, and is the most likely positive outcome.
- The report will be given a timeline extension: Subtly suggested by inquiry members in recent days, before being bluntly called for by Fianna Fáil senator Marc MacSharry.
One option is to simply move the inquiry goalposts again, by requesting another extension, to give breathing space.
The view is not backed by most members, while any extension would play havoc with the Government’s general election plans.
- The report will be scrapped: It’s the worst-case scenario, and increasingly the most likely.
If the senior counsel decides next week that the report has too many issues to resolve, she will simply kill it off, as it will not stand up to legal challenges.
A separate possibility is that the document may not even get this far, with it being far from certain, yesterday evening, that all amendments and findings can be agreed.