Sources in the Law Library claim that there is now “all-out war” between the Government and the tribunal in relation to this issue.
But this claim is being played down by Government sources, who, understandably, do not want to be seen as attempting to stymie the tribunal’s investigation.
A Government source has, however, admitted that “problems exist” and that it “has yet to hear” a valid reason why it should allow an “unspecific, ill-defined” extension of time to allow the tribunal continue investigations under current legal cost arrangements.
Government sources are anxious to scotch any suggestion that its real intention is to thwart the tribunal’s investigations, and argue that its principal concern is its responsibility to taxpayers.
Yesterday the Environment Minister, Dick Roche told the Sunday Independent: “There has been an exchange of correspondence, initiated by the tribunal, which is not yet completed. It does deal, inter alia, with how long the tribunal is going to run and so forth. It would unfair to the tribunal for me to go into the issues any further than that.
“But I will say this – that it is my ambition that the tribunal conclude its work as effectively, efficiently and as economically as possible.
“My view is that the Oireachtas appointed the tribunal and people have to be supportive of the process, but it simply can’t go on forever and ever. I am a big defender of the tribunal, but there has to be finality to it, or the realistic prospect of it, at some stage.”
Another Cabinet source told the Sunday Independent: “The Government isn’t prepared to write the tribunal a blank cheque. We are all agreed it has done good work, but we have to have some idea of when this is going to end.
“What is being looked for is certainty – in the taxpayers’ interest, in the general public’s interest. What is being made very clear to the tribunal is that all issues in relation to costs have to be clarified, and, also, that there has to be some degree of certainty as to when this will conclude.
“The other thing is, we are going to have to start thinking about a more efficient way of dealing with such matters in the future.”
Why does none of this surprise me?