Today’s revelations concerning the Smithwick Tribunal provide clear evidence that the Dáil was misled when the government pushed through a motion to limit its work.
On June 1st the Government against strong opposition from Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary TD, pushed a motion through the Oireachtas placing a deadline on the Tribunal’s inquiry into possible collusion in the murder of two RUC members. We repeatedly demanded to be shown background material. Both the Taoiseach and Minister Shatter refused to supply this material and said that the Dáil had all the information it needed.
The Taoiseach told me “I make it clear the Smithwick tribunal of inquiry will be allowed to do its work without any interference from the Government”.
Today it has been revealed that the Government was in possession of strong warnings from Judge Smithwick. They were that the motion could endanger the Tribunal’s work and that vital witnesses might withdraw their cooperation. The government was directly warned that its behaviour was a “wholly inappropriate attempt by the Executive to interfere with the independence of the tribunal”. He also criticised the “spin” which the government was putting on the Tribunal’s work.
This Tribunal was established as a key confidence-building element of the peace process. The government’s behaviour in the last two months has been a disgrace and is now becoming a scandal. They refused to consult about the motion and then forced it through the Oireachtas while withholding crucial information.
I am calling for both the Taoiseach and Minister Shatter to give full statements on this issue in the Dáil next week.