Smithwick Tribunal: Inquiry gets extension
THE deadline for an inquiry into alleged Garda and IRA collusion in the murder of two senior RUC officers during the Troubles has been extended.
The Smithwick Tribunal has been given a further nine months to uncover any links between gardai and the terror group's ambush of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan.
The pair were shot dead on March 20, 1989, shortly after a meeting with a senior garda in Dundalk.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the Government approved the proposal to further amend the terms of reference of the Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry until July 31.
"Not least for the sake of the families of the late Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan, we have been anxious that the Tribunal complete its work as quickly as possible," said Mr Shatter.
"But it is also important that the work of the Tribunal is completed fully and it is clear, because of the circumstances which have arisen, as outlined by the Chairman, that it is necessary to extend the deadline for the Tribunal to complete its work."
Interim reports must be submitted by the end of January and April, the minister added.
Judge Peter Smithwick requested his third extension because the ill health of a key witness, former Detective Sergeant Owen Corrigan, has delayed hearing evidence.
The ex-officer is at risk of a heart attack if he resumes his evidence before having a bypass, the tribunal was recently told.
Significant items of security intelligence have, only recently and unexpectedly, also been made available by the British authorities and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The Smithwick Tribunal of Inquiry was established in 2005 to inquire into suggestions of collusion by gardai or other state employees in the murders of the senior RUC officers by the Provisional IRA near Jonesborough, County Armagh in 1989.
The Tribunal conducted its inquiries in private from early 2006 and began its public hearings in June 2011.
It has since heard from more than 200 witnesses.
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
The judge was granted another five months in May as Mr Corrigan's evidence had to be deferred on medical grounds.