Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

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


9:35 pm

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)

I thank all those Members who have contributed to the debate.

I am deeply sorry that you were made to fight for so long that they went to their graves never knowing the truth. Today we say formally and without any equivocation, we are sorry. We failed you when you needed us the most. From the very beginning, we should have stood with you, but instead we forced you to stand against us.

Any of us could utter those words to the O'Farrell family, but, in fact, those are the words issued earlier this year by the Taoiseach, Deputy Harris, to the families of the victims of the Stardust fire. They were welcome words, but they came far too late for many of those affected. Today, this family here with us can rightfully ask if those words did have any meaning whatsoever. We are used to belated apologies for the hostility of the State in the face of victims who have been failed by the agencies of the State. In recent years, we have heard similar words in respect of mother and baby homes, cervical screening failures, those criminalised for their homosexuality, the Magdalen women, clerical sex abuse and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings victims. In each case, the Taoisigh concerned told us they were deeply sorry for their predecessors' roles in obstructing and delaying the path to truth and justice. They said that lessons had been learned and it would never happen again.

The very fact the O'Farrell family is here today shows lessons have not been learned and it is happening again. The Taoiseach was one of those Ministers for Justice in office since both Houses of the Oireachtas voted on resolutions that called for the establishment of an independent public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell. He was one of those Ministers who have made this brave family fight for longer than they have to. He was one of those Ministers who has failed the O'Farrell family when they needed this Government the most. He and his colleagues should have stood with Lucia and Jim and their daughters and grandchildren. Instead, they have been forced to stand against this Government.

Anyone who has spent even five minutes with Lucia O'Farrell will know, first, that she is an absolute force of nature, and, second, that the questions surrounding Shane's death and the actions of State agencies are so profound that only an independent public inquiry will suffice. Anyone who has spoken to Lucia about the report of the scoping exercise will also quickly acknowledge that it was incomplete and inaccurate in several instances.

The facts today are the very same as they were in 2018 when Fianna Fáil tabled a motion calling for a public independent inquiry. They are the very same as they were on 6 December 2019 when Deputy Mícheál Martin wrote this letter to Lucia O’Farrell and told her she could be assured of his continued support in respect of the setting up of a public inquiry. The fact that he has since held the office of Taoiseach and failed to act on this pledge says a lot about the integrity of a party that all too often is happy to accuse others of flip-flopping.

There must be no more delays. It is time to do the right thing. I welcome the fact that the Government will not oppose the motion, but I have to say that I find what is happening tonight to be incredibly cynical. The Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, has just stated that the Government intends to refer this to the justice committee in order that it might assist the Government in considering the Haughton report. The committee received the Haughton report last year, however. It was published in November. We actually had to fight to get a Dáil debate on the report. We had to fight for two months before the Government would agree to put it on the agenda. That was in January. It is now July and all of a sudden we are going to refer it to the justice committee. That is cynical in the absolute extreme. The intention, of course, was just to nod through a motion, but the Minister of State has essentially put on the record of the House that he has absolutely no intention of adhering to what is in the motion. The motion says that this State, and particularly the two parties that have been in government for more than a century, have learned nothing. They are not sorry for the failings of their predecessors, because they are repeating them.

I commend the motion to the House. If it goes to a vote, I will urge everybody to vote in favour of it because that is the right thing to do. I repeat what I said earlier, namely that there is going to be a public inquiry. At some stage, somebody will sit in the Taoiseach's chair, look Lucia O'Farrell in the eye and say, “I am sorry that you have had to go through the hell that you have had to go through to get to the truth and we will make sure it never happens again”. Those words will ring hollow if they come from a Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael Taoiseach if those in government allow the motion to pass and then simply sit on their hands without acting on it.

There are people in the Department of Justice who will move heaven and earth to ensure that this public inquiry does not happen or that if it does happen, it will be delayed for as long as possible. I am asking the Minister to do what too many of her predecessors have failed to do, which is to show some backbone, show some courage and look this family in the eye and say, “We are going to finally do right by you”.

I commend this motion to the House. I urge every single Deputy to vote in favour of it tomorrow night.


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