Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell: Motion [Private Members]

 

7:55 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)

"Every year I say to Shane, this time next year, I'll have justice for you. Each year, I say that to him. And each year we try." Those are the words of Shane O'Farrell's mother, Lucia. For 13 long years she has fought a fight that no mother should have to fight. Alongside Shane's father, Jim, and their family, Lucia has spent more than a decade campaigning for truth and justice for her beloved son. Shane was only 23 years of age when he was killed. He had his entire life ahead of him, so much potential, so much to achieve and so much to experience, but on that fateful night, 7 August 2011, Shane's beautiful future was cruelly stolen in the blink of an eye. As he cycled home, Shane was hit by a car driven by Zigimantas Gridziuska near the town of Carrickmacross in County Monaghan. It was a hit and run. Gridziuska did not stop to help. He left Shane to die a lonely death on the road.

As my colleague, Deputy Carthy, outlined, Gridziuska was a known criminal with 42 criminal convictions to his name. The big unanswered question is why he was at liberty the night he fatally struck Shane with his car. At the time, he was in breach of bail and should have been in State custody. Seven months earlier, Gridziuska was before the Circuit Court on theft charges. The judge deferred sentencing for one year, but warned him he would be jailed if he committed any further offences. Three months before the hit and run, Gridziuska appeared before Ardee court on further theft charges. The judge was not informed of the order by the Circuit Court and Gridziuska was given a suspended sentence. Incredibly, Gridziuska was again set free. He was free to go back to his life, to drive a car and to hit and kill Shane O'Farrell. Serious questions have been raised regarding Garda interactions with Gridziuska. For a long time, it has been alleged that Gridziuska was a Garda informer. He routinely broke bail laws. An Garda failed to execute court orders against him and he never served three custodial sentences imposed on him in 2010.

The O'Farrell family, who I welcome this evening, has courageously pushed and pushed for answers from An Garda Síochána and other agencies of the State. For much of this journey, they were stonewalled, ignored and, in the words of Shane's sister, Hannah, treated liked the enemy simply for asking questions. Every bit of progress achieved and every piece of information uncovered has been the result of the family's relentless efforts to obtain the truth. Six years ago, the Dáil voted in favour of establishing a public inquiry into Shane's death. Instead, the Government opted for a scoping exercise, which failed to answer the key questions of how and why Gridziuska was able so frequently to avoid custodial sentences and breach bail. Not only does the report fail to deliver the truth and a pathway to justice for Shane O'Farrell and his family, incredibly, it states that Shane bore partial responsibility for his own death. Is it any wonder that the O'Farrells withdrew their co-operation from that exercise and stated that its findings only served to retraumatise the family?

The only thing that will deliver truth and justice for Shane O'Farrell is an independent public inquiry. That is what the Dáil decided in 2018 and Sinn Féin's motion calls for that decision to be finally implemented. The O'Farrell family has been failed by the State at every turn and yet, they have kept going while coping with the pain of the tragic loss of Shane and with the ache of all the unanswered questions. Hannah once said:

We can't grieve properly and we can't grieve for Shane, the person, because there is this cloud...where we have so many unanswered questions and it's just compounding our grief.

With great courage, resilience and dignity, the O'Farrells have refused to give in or give up. The Government must now finally respond to the demands of a mother, a father and a family for justice, truth, the chance to lay the memory of their precious boy to rest in peace, for an independent public inquiry.

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