Missing witnesses

Smithwick tribunal

On 7 June 2011, the Smithwick tribunal outlined 214 witnesses they planned to call to give evidence: 107 serving and former gardaí, 42 serving and former RUC/PSNI officers, and 65 civilians.

Meanwhile, an exchange of letters between tribunal chairman Peter Smithwick and justice minister Alan Shatter was published. In brief, Shatter wanted the tribunal to finish as quickly as possible, Smithwick objected.

In a 27 May letter, Smithwick worried “the effect of a public deadline is to indicate to parties who may have an interest in frustrating the work of the tribunal that they need only withhold cooperation for a few months more in order to achieve their objectives.”

By 29 June, Smithwick had heard evidence from 29 witnesses, and hoped to hear from 115 others, a drop of 70, from 214 to 144.

By 7 October, the chairman had heard evidence from 83 garda witnesses, 14 RUC/PSNI, seven civilians, two members of the British Army, and one politician. There remained 40 witnesses. Total: 147.

Since Shatter went public with his deadline, the tribunal lost 67 witnesses. Last Friday, Smithwick got an extension to the end of May. Will he have enough time to persuade those witnesses to give evidence?

Smithwick tribunal

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.