There has been a late surge in the number of complaints about the conduct of garda investigations, which is being examined by an expert panel of barristers.
The number of cases has swelled from around 200 last August to more than 300, pushing the completion of the review back a number of months. The process was due to have been completed by November, but has continued as more cases came in for examination.
Many of the cases were sent through TDs and a campaign group, Justice4All, on the back of allegations of garda abuses and misconduct made by whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe in the Cavan/Monaghan division.
These allegations were examined by Sean Guerin, who completed his review in early May. His report recommended a statutory inquiry to examine the matters further and reach definitive conclusions.
In December, some eight months later, the Government announced the establishment of the inquiry, to be headed by retired High Court judge Kevin O’Higgins.
In July, when asked about the progress of the Guerin inquiry, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced that she had set up an independent review of separate allegations concerning the conduct of gardaí, or inadequacies in their investigations, which had been made to the Taoiseach or herself.
She said the panel comprised two senior counsel — Conor Devally and Aileen Donnelly — and five junior counsel: Paul Carroll, John Fitzgerald, Tony McGuillicuddy, Siobhán Ní Chulachain, and Karen O’Connor.
Ms Fitzgerald said the barristers would review the cases and make a recommendation to her on what further actions, if any, might be appropriate. She said their work would begin shortly and that the aim was to have the majority of cases reviewed within a period of “between eight and 12 weeks”.
The counsel are paid a fee on a case-by-case basis of €300, €550, or €800, depending on complexity. Senior counsel have an additional brief fee of €20,000 to oversee the operation of the mechanism and to ensure consistency across all the cases.
The Department of Justice said in August it was possible that some of the cases that warranted deeper investigation could be included in the terms of reference of the commission of investigation being set up to examine the Guerin cases. The terms of reference do not, so far, include any of the cases.
The department has told the Irish Examiner that the number of cases being reviewed has now reached 307. A spokesman said the independent review was “well under way” but did not say when it would be completed.
“It is important that nothing arises which might detract from the integrity of the review mechanism,” he said. “It is therefore considered inappropriate to place a time constraint upon the working of the panel, although they intend to conclude their work as soon as is reasonably practicable.”
The process has attracted criticism from some people who lodged complaints, partly as it is only a paper review and does not involve interviews with the complainants.
One family, that of Shane O’Farrell, a 23-year-old man killed in a hit-and-run in 2011, has also complained that one of the senior counsel, Mr Devally, defended the man who killed her son.
Ms Fitzgerald has said there is a procedure where conflicts of interest might arise.