Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

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

 

9:15 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)

It is difficult to leave emotion out of it but we have an obligation to not be emotional and to deal with the facts. Shane O'Farrell died on 2 August 13 years ago. The family have been fighting since then for justice. That burden should not be on the family's shoulders. They should have been able to grieve the loss of their beautiful son, who had graduated with a first in his master's. They should have been able, at some stage, to try to get on with their lives. Justice has not been done or seen to be done. That is not what happened, unfortunately. This is a detailed motion from Sinn Féin. It has laid out the facts as best it can. I thank Sinn Féin for that. It has given us an opportunity once again to speak about this issue.

I absolutely disagree with Deputy Danny Healy-Rae. This is not about anyone's nationality. This is about multiple failures on the part of State agencies - multiple mistakes or failures or whatever we would like to call them which intensified and complicated the whole matter. On 11 January, when Gridziuska appeared in Monaghan Circuit Court on theft charges, Judge O'Hagan adjourned the case for one year and he continued on bail on condition that he stayed out of trouble. The judge went into detail on that, saying he was giving him one chance and one chance only but to get back to him any part, any time if he put a foot wrong. That was on 11 January. The judge said: "I’m giving him this chance, and this chance only. I can assure you ... if you do mess this one up ... you will be going to be prison.” He gave an open call to everyone, including the Garda in particular, to come forward. Between January and 2 August of that year, that man committed 11 offences. On no occasion did the Garda return him, as Judge O'Hagan had clearly set out. If they had done so and the whole story had come out about those offences, the previous offences and the offences he came to the country with, he certainly would not have been at liberty, if we are to take Judge O'Hagan at his word.

An hour before Shane O'Farrell was killed by a hit and run driver, Gridziuska, the car in which Gridziuska was a passenger was stopped by the Garda drugs squad.

The driver was not insured, there was no valid NCT and the car was in a dangerous condition. What did the gardaí do? An agreement was made and Gridziuska got into the driver's seat and drove on. Just listen to what I have said: not insured, no valid NCT and a car in a dangerous condition, yet the car goes on. One hour later there is a hit and run when he runs down young Shane O'Farrell. He pleaded guilty to a hit and run charge and he received a suspended eight month sentence on condition that he return to Lithuania. Then we had a complaint to GSOC, which took seven years. The family was most unhappy with that report and I can see why.

There has been reference to the two motions, on 12 June 2018 and in February. Again tonight, we have a motion calling for an independent sworn inquiry. It appears the Minister, Deputy McEntee, is agreeing to that. If she is agreeing to it, this is to be welcomed. The Minister has not tabled an amendment and she is agreeing to the motion. I will take her word on that for the moment.

The question is why the Government has not acted on foot of the two motions. Rather than do so, a scoping inquiry was set up and that took another four years. This is on top of an independent review mechanism that was also extremely faulty. I do not have time to go into all of the faults. I am just trying to make an overall point. The conclusion that no further report was necessary is truly astounding. It is truly astounding given that it was a scoping exercise, not a fact-finding mission or a blaming mission, that the report blamed Shane O'Farrell. It blamed him for having no light on his bike. There were no witnesses to the accident and there is blame all around, in a blaming narrative, and the report said that no further inquiry was necessary. That in itself is astounding and merits further investigation.

Here we are tonight begging the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and appealing to her to stop this. This is not fair on the family and, equally importantly, it is not good for democracy. This has a lot of parallels with the McCabe case. Instead of burying our heads in the sand, let us stand together so we can all learn and, most of all, that the family will be relieved of this horrible burden. Democracy will be better for it with a full sworn inquiry.

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