Three influential Americans who visited Northern Ireland for the opening of the inquiry into the murder of Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson have expressed dismay at the delay in public hearings.
Earlier this month it was confirmed that a public inquiry into Mrs Nelson's killing was to be postponed by a year.
The inquiry team blamed a massive workload for its decision to delay the hearings, scheduled for next spring, until January 2007.
Mrs Nelson, a mother-of-three, was killed in a loyalist car-bomb attack outside her Lurgan home in March 1999.
Prior to her killing she alleged that her life had been threatened by members of the security forces.
In a letter to the inquiry team earlier this week Ned McGinley, national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Thomas Burke and Edmund E Lynch, both of the Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland, called for the hearings to be convened in the spring.
All three men travelled to Craigavon, Co Armagh, earlier this year, for the opening of the inquiry.
Their letter to the inquiry team said: "We have genuine concern that this latest delay will have a negative effect on the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry.
"Such delays tend to generate a public perception that the goal of the inquiry is to postpone the day of accounting for those responsible for this tragic crime against a courageous solicitor and attack upon the rule of law in a divided society. We believe that the inquiry must undertake an energetic effort to open hearings in... spring of 2006."