Tribunals of Inquiry are established by resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas to enquire into definite matters of urgent public importance. A tribunal’s function is not to administer justice; its principal function is to discover the facts in relation to some matter of legitimate public interest and, where appropriate, to make recommendations. Tribunals report their findings to the Oireachtas.

The Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2004 give a tribunal the powers, privileges and rights of the High Court. Tribunals can order the attendance and examination of witnesses on oath and the production of relevant documents.

A tribunal cannot exclude the public from any of its proceedings unless in its opinion it is in the public interest to do so, especially where there is a risk of prejudice to criminal proceedings.

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