Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions
On Deputy Paul Murphy's question, what he has articulated would represent a shocking abuse of power. I do not have the full context or story behind it but he said it went to GSOC and other avenues. The Garda has dedicated units within counties to deal with situations like this. It is clear to me that there are avenues for people to deal with the abuse of power. One of the issues in the country is that the existing authorities and agencies should deal with this robustly and clearly. Again, I do not have the background to this but perhaps the Deputy can share that with me.
On Deputy Gannon's question, I extend my deepest sympathies to the Wheelock family and to the Deputy and others who knew Terence. I realise that his tragic death has caused enormous sadness. These events were the subject of a GSOC inquiry and the report was published back in March 2010. Legal proceedings arose from these matters, which were settled in 2014. As the Deputy will appreciate, GSOC and the courts are fully independent in the exercise of their functions and I cannot intervene in or comment on that or on the inquiry carried out by GSOC. The matters were fully considered by GSOC and have been the subject of legal proceedings. It is not envisaged that there would be a further public inquiry into this at this particular time. That was communicated to the family recently but I take on board the sincerity of the Deputy in raising this.
Deputies Brendan Smith and O'Reilly raised the issue of the death of Shane O'Farrell and the desire of Lucia O'Farrell and her family to get justice in respect of the tragic loss of their son. Deputy Brendan Smith has been a long-term advocate for the family. As the Deputies know, a highly respected retired judge, Judge Gerard Haughton, was appointed to conduct a scoping exercise into the tragic circumstances surrounding Shane's death. The purpose of that exercise was to advise on whether a further investigation or inquiry should be carried out and the manner and form of such an investigation or inquiry and its terms of reference if he was of the view that there should be one, although I acknowledge the Dáil has committed to one. Judge Haughton furnished an interim report in November 2019. He stated at that stage that he would not restrict or limit Shane's family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wished to furnish through any scoping exercise. The judge is independent in conducting this scoping exercise. I cannot comment on it or on any aspect of the judge's work but I fully understand the desire of Members, including Deputies Brendan Smith, O'Reilly, McGuinness and others who have consistently raised this, to bring the scoping inquiry to a conclusion and move forward.
I genuinely regret that the process has taken significantly longer than any of us would have liked. I am also aware that a judge is doing all he can to ensure the concerns the family have raised with him during the process are followed through on to the greatest extent possible. I understand that Judge Haughton has been in contact with the O'Farrell family throughout his scoping exercise. Judge Haughton has recently written to the Department of Justice on the week beginning 5 July indicating that there are some minor matters to be addressed on one aspect of the inquiry. Once those matters have been addressed, he intends to seek comments and corrections on that aspect of the draft report from interested parties, including the O'Farrell family. Following receipt of responses from these parties, Judge Haughton will be in a position to finalise his report.
The Department of Justice will continue to provide all necessary assistance to Judge Haughton. The Minister for Justice looks forward to receiving his final report and updating the House on the matter.