Smithwick Tribunal: “It is understood the tribunal chairman is concerned about the deadline”

According to the Irish Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, speaking to the BBC on Thursday – about the Irish Government setting the Smithwick Tribunal a ‘deadline’ of 30 November for its final report.

[Irish Justice Minister Alan] Shatter said the November deadline was not set in stone.

We’ve been informed by the tribunal chairman that he believes the tribunal will be in a position to do that, but should it emerge that there’s a difficulty in that regard, of course, we’ll revisit the matter,” he said. [added emphasis]

But, according to a BBC report today, the chairman of the tribunal has written to the Irish Government expressing “concern at the inquiry’s remit”.

It is understood the tribunal chairman is concerned about the deadline.

The solicitor for Chief Superintendent Breen’s family said the concerns must be taken seriously.

“I think it would be enormously discourteous for the Department of Justice, for the minister responsible for that department, and for the wider cabinet in fact, to ignore concerns expressed by Judge (Peter) Smithwick,” he said.

And the Belfast Telegraph today reports

[Taoiseach Enda] Kenny suggested the deadlines were not cast in stone.

I want the House to be absolutely clear that there is no intention of any interference in any way with the Smithwick Inquiry in respect of the work it has to do,” he said. [added emphasis]

He added: “If for some reason the Smithwick inquiry is unable to conclude its hearings or conclude its business by the time requested by Government, then obviously the Government will consider that.”

We should find out Judge Peter Smithwick’s thoughts on the matter at the tribunal’s next public sitting on June 7.

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  • Today, the Dáil, passed the motion, following earlier approval by the Cabinet, requiring the Smithwick Tribunal to provide an interim report to the Dáil by 30 June 2011 and to complete its work by 30 November 2011.

    Amnesty International wrote to the Irish Government last week outlining our concerns about their proposals. To date we have received no response and are concerned at the implications of today’s vote.

    Amnesty’s response is here: Ireland: Dáil’s imposition of time limits on the Smithwick Tribunal may interfere with the independence of a judicial inquiry.

    And from our press release, this is my response:
    “This inquiry into collusion – like other such inquiries – must be independent, impartial and thorough. Amnesty International is concerned that imposing time limits without setting out satisfactory reasons for doing so, may amount to an unwarranted interference in the independence of the Smithwick Tribunal.

    “If there are to be changes to the tribunal’s terms of reference, it must be to make it more effective, not simply to save money, as has been suggested by some. Financial considerations must not be allowed to reduce the effectiveness of an inquiry as important as this.

    “The families of RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan deserve the truth about how they met their deaths and what role, if any, members of An Garda Síochána played in their deaths. Society as a whole, in both parts of Ireland, is also entitled to the truth about our recent past.”