Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

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


8:45 pm

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)

I say to the Minister and to the family in the Gallery that there is very little left to be said as eloquently as the other Deputies have said it. I feel there is not a lot for me to add because I could not agree more with them. Absolutely everything that has been said, and has been covered here, has been covered time and again in this House in relation to Shane O'Farrell. I thank Deputy Matt Carthy and Sinn Féin for bringing this motion forward, particularly as we are coming to the end of this Government. We are definitely coming to the end of this term, but ultimately we are coming to the end of this Government in a short period of time. It is interesting that when we are coming to the end of something, a controversy like this will open up deep divisions within a coalition. That is why the three Fianna Fáil Deputies who were sitting here earlier on were all here to show their passionate support. That is why the former Taoiseach and current Tánaiste, Deputy Micheál Martin, has been quoted repeatedly. We know about the passion and determination with which he pushed a resolution on this case - I wish he had pushed a revolution - when he was in opposition. All of the contradictions that go on in the body politic have been revealed here tonight over the corpse of Shane O'Farrell and over the hard work and love his mother has put into this. She is incredible. If I am ever in trouble with the law, I want her on my side. She is forensic and nothing goes by her. If she was my mother, I would be scared of her because she will miss absolutely nothing. She is an amazing woman. I know that is driven by her love of her son and her love of justice itself.

It has been obvious since cases like Stardust, the Birmingham Six and Bloody Sunday, and what we now face with the case of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, that when issues of State injustice are ignored and are not dealt with, they only serve to cement doubt, mistrust and the public's lack of confidence in the overall justice system and in An Garda Síochána.

That leaves the Minister with a huge responsibility. As Minister for Justice, does she want it to be her legacy to have served to cement the mistrust of Joe Public in her role, in her office and in the Garda, which she is supposed to lead, protect and represent? Our past is littered with cases of injustice. I have mentioned some of them, like the Stardust tragedy. We also have the Terence Wheelock case and the George Nkencho case outstanding. These cases are being dragged for years on end through elements of the justice system and through the political system, which is where this has ended up. The family is still being told, "No, here comes more pain and torture". What the Minister announced tonight, when she said to the family that it will be brought to the justice committee, is like sticking needles into their eyes.

The Judge Haughton report was rejected by the family. The Minister knows this. They rejected it not because they wanted to throw their toys out of the pram but because Lucia O'Farrell went through it forensically in word and detail and was able to show quite clearly that it was extremely flawed from its inception. From the time the terms of references were printed, published and changed again up to the time the report was concluded, she showed that it was not worth the paper it was written on.

Here is the thing for us here in the House. We always talk, as others have said, about the separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Parliament. At this stage, the Parliament has voted not once but twice, in the Dáil and the Seanad, to call for a public inquiry into the events leading up to the death of Shane O'Farrell, and the issues of injustice around it. That inquiry has not happened. A judge's report that has been rejected by the family and has not been accepted by this House is allowed to go to the justice committee for more scrutiny. Who has the ultimate say when it comes to democratic rights? Is it the people who are democratically elected - the people who sit in this Chamber - or is it the judges they appoint? I think that is a serious question we have to ask ourselves because the democratically elected people in this Chamber will vote again to demand a public inquiry. We have done it already - so has the Seanad - but it has been thrown back in the faces of the O'Farrell family.

This has been dragged out. I plead with the Minister not to do a Stardust on the O'Farrell family. Do not drag it out for decades and decades. Give them the justice they deserve and open up a public inquiry. I suggest that the failure by the Minister to establish such an inquiry would lead us to conclude that for this State, in the words of the deceased Lord Denning - somebody very famous historically, having presided over the Birmingham Six trials - getting to the truth and nothing but the truth would open up "an appalling vista" for this State. As somebody involved in justice, the Minister will be familiar with those words. The only conclusion one can come to is that we are hiding something. I refer not necessarily to the Minister for Justice and the other elected people in the House, but to those in the deep state who really make the decisions. People hidden behind the curtains of the Civil Service and deep down in the Departments - the deep state - make decisions and give advice. They are holding back on justice and democracy being served in this House.

It is quite clear that a row is going on in the Government between the three parties on this issue. The Government does not want to push it to a vote to avoid embarrassment, even at this late stage in its existence. However, I am asking the Minister the following question: when she comes back to speak to us in her concluding remarks, will she commit to enacting the terms or the sentiments of this motion, which is to call for a public inquiry, and will she bring to the House before the closure of this Government terms of reference for a public inquiry? If she does not announce that before the end of this debate, I am going to push this to a vote and I am going to insist that all of those in the Minister's Government and coalition, one by one, show exactly where they stand on the issue of a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell and the injustices surrounding the O'Farrell case.


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