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Smithwick Tribunal: Government considers extending deadline into inquiry

THE GOVERNMENT will consider extending the deadline for an inquiry into alleged Garda collusion with the IRA in the murder of two senior RUC officers during the Troubles.

The chairman of the Smithwick Tribunal has written to the Oireachtas seeking to extend the deadline for the final report until October.

Judge Peter Smithwick is investigating alleged collusion in the murder of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

The pair were killed in an IRA ambush on March 20 1989, after a meeting with a senior garda in Dundalk.

A spokesman for Justice Minister Alan Shatter said Judge Peter Smithwick wrote to the Clerk of the Dail requesting extra time.

"The minister will bring the matter to the Government shortly for its consideration," he said.

"It is a matter for the Dail and Seanad to decide on the terms of reference of the tribunal and any amendment that might be made."

The tribunal was established in 2005 after Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended a public inquiry be carried out to investigate allegations of collusion by garda officers, or a civilian in the force.

It opened nearly a year later before being almost immediately adjourned to allow for private investigations. Public hearings started in June last year.

It has sat for almost 100 days, heard evidence from 190 witnesses, and cost more than €8m to date.

The final report was initially due last November, but Mr Shatter agreed to a six-month extension after earlier pressure for the inquiry to be wound up sparked a public row with Judge Smithwick.

Judge Smithwick has appealed for more time to hear further evidence from witnesses and to write his final report.

He said that Owen Corrigan, a former Garda sergeant accused of collusion, had been due to start giving evidence last week but applied for a deferral on medical grounds.

It is hoped Mr Corrigan can attend to give evidence in two to three weeks, depending on his medical condition, he said.

Judge Smithwick said it would then take about three months to write his report, with printing and editing taking a further month.

"I would ask that in considering this request, members of the Oireachtas bear in mind that there will be a significant reduction in the running costs of the tribunal from the conclusion of the public hearings," wrote Judge Smithwick.

Costs would be saved on the amount of office space needed when public hearings close, on the use of tribunal counsel and on stenography services.

PA Media