Shatter agrees report extension for inquiry judge
Justice Minister Alan Shatter is going to give a tribunal judge more time to finish the inquiry's work -- after previously setting a strict deadline to file its report.
Judge Peter Smithwick has asked for a six-month extension of the deadline for completing the final report of the inquiry into claims of garda collusion in the murder of two RUC officers.
Mr Shatter clashed with the judge during the summer after setting a deadline for the inquiry to finish its work.
Judge Smithwick criticised the minister for announcing the tribunal had until December to complete its work.
The judge is now making a request for an extension until the end of May 2012 because new lines of inquiry have opened up due to unanticipated matters that emerged during evidence.
The Cabinet is expected to sign off on the extension of time today.
"The minister has seen the letter and, clearly, in the circumstances, an extension is required," a spokesperson said last night.
"The minister will brief the Cabinet on the matter and expects that it will be dealt with on Tuesday."
In a letter to the Houses of the Oireachtas last week, Judge Smithwick said the tribunal had heard from 105 witnesses and intends to call another 42 people.
"Based on evidence concluding in late December and a deadline for written submissions by the parties at the end of January, I therefore anticipate that I will be able to submit my final report by the end of May 2012," he said.
During the summer, on foot of a cabinet decision, the Dail passed a motion telling the judge to finish up by the end of next month. But Judge Smithwick warned this had the potential to cost the tribunal the testimony of witnesses who had to be coaxed to attend.
Mr Shatter denied at the time that the Government was interfering in the work of the tribunal. He said there could not be open-ended tribunals sitting in secret, spending taxpayers' money with no accountability to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
In a series of strongly worded letters, the judge has accused Mr Shatter of "spin" when he announced that the tribunal would have to finish all public hearings and have a final report by November 30.
The judge said it was a "wholly inappropriate attempt by the Executive to interfere with the independence of the tribunal".
•In yesterday's Irish Independent, the following quote from Justice Minister Alan Shatter was carried: "The previous government signed up to the ECB and IMF to reduce garda numbers from 14,500 to 13,500.
"There were never any arrangements put in place to effect that reduction and that of course is making it difficult for the Department of Justice this year to fully meet its obligation with regard to expenditure.''
It has been pointed out that Mr Shatter also went on to add "that his department has done a huge amount of work to find savings and he is confident it will get the required spending cuts before the end of the year". We are happy to clarify this matter.