Correspondence from the Chairman of the Smithwick Tribunal, Peter Smithwick has confirmed that the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter attempted to interfere with the independence of the Tribunal and compromise key aspects of its work, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Dara Calleary said today.
 
In letters that have emerged today, the Chairman of the Smithwick Tribunal, which has  been tasked with investigating allegations of Garda collusion into the murder of two RUC officers Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan, describes Minister Shatter’s imposition of a deadline as a “wholly inappropriate attempt by the Executive to interfere with the independence of the Tribunal.”
 
According to Judge Peter Smithwick the publicity surrounding this deadline has discouraged sensitive witnesses from giving evidence because they perceive the Tribunal to be in the process of being wound down.
 
He also points out that the parties who have an interest in frustrating the work of the Tribunal now realise that they need only withhold cooperation for a few months more in order to achieve this objective.
 
Commenting on this Deputy Calleary said: “Minister Shatter still doesn’t appear to understand the consequences of what he has been trying to do.  By wading into the Tribunal’s work, just as it reached its critical phase, he threatens public acceptance of the Tribunal’s independence and risks undermining the entire point of this expensive but crucial initiative
 
“One of the central purposes of the Smithwick Tribunal was to help build confidence among the unionist community in the north, support for the peace process and demonstrate the Republic’s good faith. The letters which have been released today show that Minister Shatter has, either knowingly or unwittingly posed an enormous threat to that cause”.