The Irish Government is not attempting to hinder the work of a police corruption inquiry examining allegations of IRA-Garda collusion in the murder of two RUC officers, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted.
Amid a deeply divisive row over an autumn deadline for the Smithwick Tribunal, Mr Kenny moved to assure relatives of the two officers and their lawyers.
The Taoiseach said if more time was needed requests would be examined by the Dail parliament despite Justice Minister Alan Shatter piling on the pressure to wrap up investigations in a few months.
"We want to see a situation where tribunals are enabled to do their work completely independently that they don't have to continue indefinitely," the Taoiseach said.
"If the Smithwick tribunal comes back to the Dail or the Government and says for these reasons we cannot conclude our hearings when it was intended, the Dail will obviously react to that. There is absolutely no intention whatsoever on behalf of the Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter) or on behalf of the Government of attempting in anyway to hinder the work of the Smithwick Tribunal."
The tribunal, established in 2005, is investigating allegations that Garda officers in the Republic or a civilian in the force colluded with the IRA in the murder of two of the most senior officers killed in the Northern Ireland Troubles. Superintendent Bob Buchanan was murdered along with colleague Chief Superintendent Harry Breen near the border after a meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in March 1989.
In a series of letters over the past few weeks, tribunal chairman Judge Peter Smithwick told the minister the controversial and unexpected declaration of a deadline threatened the entire investigation.
At hearings on Friday, retired detective superintendent Tom Connolly said he "kept an open mind" when carrying out an internal probe into the killing in Dundalk. He said there was unease about newspaper reports of a suspected IRA mole in the station after the killings.
Mr Breen and Mr Buchanan had travelled to Dundalk station in Co Louth to discuss a possible joint RUC/Garda police operation against smuggling and were returning to Northern Ireland when they were ambushed just north of the border on the Edenappa Road.
Judge Smithwick has warned witnesses are reconsidering their co-operation with the inquiry following the row over a deadline, including one important witness from outside the state whose co-operation took some time to secure.