In his piece on the “Bloody Sunday” Inquiry at the Guardian’s online law pages, Joshua Rozenberg reminds us how extraordinarily prolonged the inquiry has been:
Lord Saville’s report will be too large to publish in the traditional way and certainly too lengthy to read and absorb in the seven-and-a-half hours ahead of formal publication that has been offered to those most closely involved.
Nobody asked Saville to go into such detail. On the contrary, parliament told him that the subject of his inquiry was a matter of “urgent public importance”. That was more than 12 years ago.
And Saville’s report will be published some five years later than he had predicted. The supreme court judge finished taking evidence from all but a handful of witnesses in February 2004 and heard closing speeches in November of that year. He made it clear at the time he planned to deliver his report in the summer of 2005. Saville’s gross under-estimate of the time it would take to complete, for which he has never offered an adequate explanation, hardly inspires confidence.
He’s got a point.
In November 2009, David Jones – the new Justice Minister in Northern Ireland – referred to the Saville Inquiry as “pointless”. I hope that he is wrong! It has certainly been expensive at £190.3 million up to the end of February 2010 and one hopes that such a level of expenditure proves to have been worthwhile. There ought to be a full explanation of why the report was not published in 2005 and why there has been a delay of a further 5 years. Has there been any political interference in the decision whether to publish?