Statement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., relating to the Smithwick Tribunal

'It is a matter of surprise and regret that Deputy Dara Calleary seeks, on the basis of selective quotations from lengthy correspondence between myself and Judge Smithwick, to involve the operation of the Smithwick Tribunal in party political controversy and to cynically misrepresent action taken by me. His cynical and ill considered approach carries with it the danger of undermining public confidence in a Tribunal established by the Oireachtas to inquire into a gravely important matter.

The facts of the matter are simple.

The Smithwick Tribunal has been functioning since 2006 at a cost of over €8m. It has only this month finally begun substantive public hearings.

Earlier, at his request, following my appointment as Minister for Justice, I met Mr. Justice Smithwick in my Department and he briefed me on the timescale in which he believed it would be possible to complete the Tribunal's work. Subsequently, I moved a motion in both Houses of the Oireachtas which reflected that timescale and sought an interim report from the Tribunal for the Houses of the Oireachtas by today 30th June.

I mentioned in both Houses that Mr. Justice Smithwick had expressed concerns about the public imposition of a deadline, not the timescale itself.

I dealt with those concerns by making it clear to the Oireachtas and the Tribunal that if it emerged that there were difficulties in meeting that timescale the Tribunal would be able to report this matter to the Clerk of the Dáil. I gave a solemn assurance that the Government's response to that would be fully cognisant of and consistent with the need for the tribunal to fulfil its obligations fully and as expeditiously as possible.

While the correspondence discloses matters on which Judge Smithwick and myself respectfully disagree, it is clear that the Tribunal is determined to carry on its important task to establish the truth, and in doing so, has my full support. The Tribunal has sat on a number of occasions during the month of June and is continuing public hearings.

What is important is that the Tribunal should be let get on with its important work and should not be mired in an artificial political controversy generated by Fianna Fail.