Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell: Motion [Private Members]
That Dáil Éireann:
— on 5th February, 2019, the Minister for Justice and Equality announced the appointment of District Court Judge, Gerard Haughton, to conduct a scoping exercise into certain matters surrounding the circumstances leading to the death of Shane O’Farrell;
— the purpose of the initial scoping exercise was to determine what further steps could be taken, and the Minister for Justice and Equality stated that Judge Gerard Haughton was ‘free to recommend any course of action’ which he considered appropriate;
— Judge Gerard Haughton was provided with terms of reference but the Minister for Justice and Equality stated in the Dáil and in correspondence to the O’Farrell family that they would have an opportunity to consult with the Judge on those terms;
— on 24th April, 2019, Judge Gerard Haughton submitted final terms of reference to the Minister for Justice and Equality; and
— on 29th July, 2019, the Department of Justice and Equality rejected the terms of reference submitted by Judge Gerard Haughton and provided terms of reference significantly narrower than both the Judge’s terms of reference and those provided by the Minister for Justice and Equality on 5th February, 2019; recognises that: — on 14th June, 2018, a majority of Dáil Éireann members voted in favour of a motion calling on the Government to immediately establish a public inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell; and
— on 13th February, 2019, a motion was passed by the members of Seanad Éireann calling for the immediate establishment of a public inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell; and
calls on the Government to:
— acknowledge that the Department of Justice and Equality’s terms of reference do not address the needs of either the O’Farrell family or the Resolution of the Dáil of 14th June, 2018; and
— adopt the following terms of reference immediately for the scoping exercise as drafted by Judge Gerard Haughton who consulted with the O’Farrell family, and which terms reflect the spirit of the Resolution of the House: ‘In light of the public controversy surrounding the circumstances of the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell on 2 August 2011, and having regard to the motion passed by Dáil Éireann on 14 June 2018 and Seanad Éireann on 13 February 2019, calling for the establishment of a public inquiry in the matter and having regard to the State’s obligations pursuant to Article 40.3 of the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights and in particular Articles 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 and 13 thereof as set out in the schedule below:
1. To review the investigations that have already taken place into the circumstances of the death of Mr. O’Farrell, namely:
(a) The criminal prosecution of Mr. Zigimantas Gridziuska in respect of the fatality on the 2 August 2011 and the subsequent trial in the Circuit Criminal Court in February 2013;
(b) The previous prosecutions of Mr. Zigimantas Gridzuska and the interactions of members of An Garda Síochána with Mr. Zigimantas Gridziuska in so far as same are relevant to the fact that the said Mr. Gridziuska was on bail at the time of the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell on 2 August 2011;
(c) The review by the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM);
(d) The criminal investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC);
(e) The subsequent disciplinary investigation by GSOC; and
(f) To have regard to the documentation gathered for the Statutory Inquest into the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell.
2. To review changes that have been made to the law and practice in relation to the administration of bail and bench warrants and the extent to which they have or have not addressed gaps in those systems since the death of Mr. O’Farrell;
3. Based on the reviews at 1. and 2. above to advise the Minister for Justice and Equality:
(a) If there are any remaining unanswered questions in relation to the circumstances of Mr. O’Farrell’s death that should be the subject of further inquiry or investigation; and
(b) If there are, the most appropriate manner in which they should be investigated, having regard to the statutory independence of bodies such as the courts, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
4. If an investigation or inquiry is recommended to draft terms of reference for said investigation/inquiry, and the suggested composition of the said investigation/inquiry;
5. To make enquiries with persons or bodies that he/she considers appropriate in relation to the review; and
6. To report to the Minister for Justice and Equality within 8 weeks of commencement with an interim report indicating,inter alia, the expected timeframe for completion of the scoping exercise.’.
I am sharing time with Deputy Niall Collins.
It is now over eight years since Shane O’Farrell was killed when he was cycling his bicycle in the vicinity of his house in Carrickmacross on 2 August 2011. His death was a tragedy. He was a young man who had his whole life ahead of him. He had just completed his master’s degree which he had handed in that day for assessment. It was a terrible trauma for his family, his loving parents, Lucia and James, and his four sisters.
As I have said before, the fact that Shane’s death is a tragedy and has caused great trauma for his family does not mean that there should always be a State inquiry or investigation into how his death and killing occurred. There are reasons, however, that I, as well as this House, believe give rise to the State establishing an inquiry and investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O’Farrell.
Shane was killed in a hit-and-run accident on 2 August 2011. The individual, a Lithuanian man, who was driving the car involved, was subsequently convicted for leaving the scene of the accident. The reason Shane O’Farrell’s death merits investigation is that there were significant failings by the State of which we do not yet know the full details.
I will outline to the House the circumstances which, on the face of it, give rise to a reason for there to be an investigation. In January 2011, the Lithuanian man in question was convicted in Monaghan Circuit Court of theft. The judge who sentenced him said he would adjourn sentencing for a year but that, if the Lithuanian man was convicted of any other fraud or theft offences, his sentence of one year’s imprisonment would immediately be triggered. Later that year, in May, this Lithuanian man was convicted of another theft offence in Ardee District Court. That earlier conviction should have been brought to the attention of the Circuit Court judge immediately to ensure the Lithuanian man’s sentence could be activated because of the breach of the terms set in January 2011.
It was not just that offence in May 2011 that gave rise for concern. Later in May, in Dundalk District Court, the same man was convicted of speeding. Subsequently, in June, in Carrickmacross, he was convicted for the possession of heroin. In July 2011, in Newry, a different jurisdiction, he was again convicted of theft. There were many further convictions. What this indicates is that this man should not have been out on our streets at the time Shane O’Farrell was cycling his bicycle in the vicinity of Carrickmacross. That is an issue which merits investigation.
I, like the Minister, have met the O’Farrell family. Nothing that this House can do, or nothing that a judge appointed to inquire into the circumstances of Shane’s death will do, will result in the O’Farrell family being able to deal adequately with the trauma imposed on them. Unfortunately, I do not believe the O’Farrell family will be able to get justice in the way families are entitled to justice when their loved ones are killed. The House, however, has a responsibility to assist them in getting answers to questions that are still hanging out there. Notwithstanding the fact there has been a lengthy Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, inquiry into this matter, which is not yet fully completed, there are still questions that remain unanswered.
As a result of these unanswered questions, Fianna Fáil put forward a motion in June 2018 seeking the establishment of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O’Farrell. The House voted on 14 June 2018 for the establishment of such an inquiry. Subsequently, the Upper House voted in February 2019 in favour of such an inquiry. In fairness to the Government, it recognised that if Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann are in favour of such an inquiry, there is an obligation on the Executive to give effect to the resolution of both Houses. As a result of that, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, appointed District Court Judge, Gerard Haughton, to conduct a scoping inquiry into the terms of an investigation, whether an investigation should be needed and the extent of such an investigation.
At the time the Minister came forward with this proposal, many people were critical of it. We could have been critical but we said the process should be allowed to play out to see whether there was a benefit in the scoping exercise and to allow Judge Haughton to conduct his preliminary review. There is a benefit when it comes to investigations for a judge to conduct a scoping inquiry to ensure that the circumstances and parameters of such an inquiry can be properly defined for whoever is going to continue to conduct it. We know that when the Minister appointed Judge Haughton, he was provided with terms of reference in February 2019. The Minister indicated at the time, both in oral parliamentary questions and in replies to written parliamentary questions, that the family could engage with the judge about the terms of reference and that the judge could propose changes to the terms of reference to the Minister. We welcomed this and thought it was helpful that there could be some preliminary engagement between Judge Haughton and the O’Farrell family in advance of the conclusion of the terms of reference for the scoping inquiry.
We know then that as a result of what the Minister said, Judge Haughton came back with the terms of reference in April 2019 which he submitted to the family and the Department. In fairness to the O’Farrell family, they believed those terms of reference would be accepted, in light of what had previously been indicated by the Department. In July 2019, however, the Department provided Judge Haughton with amended terms of reference which were significantly narrower than those submitted by him to the Department in April 2019.
We need to recognise that there has been considerable delay in getting this process up and running. When one looks at what we are trying to investigate, it is an issue of limited duration. It is an issue which relates to what happened with this Lithuanian man prior to the accident with Shane on 2 August 2011. It is an investigation into the inquiry’s investigations and prosecutions that took place thereafter. This should not be a matter that has dragged on for as long as it has. I note the Taoiseach said today that this has gone on for too long. Everyone in the House agrees it has gone on for too long. It is unfair on the O’Farrell family that they have been dragged through this for such a lengthy period.
The motion’s purpose is to get the Government to accept the terms of reference that were provided by Judge Haughton in April 2019. From what the Taoiseach said today - and probably what the Minister will say in due course this evening - Judge Haughton may be coming near the conclusion of his scoping inquiry. I still appeal to the Minister to permit Judge Haughton to conduct his scoping inquiry in terms of the amended terms of reference provided in April 2019. A scoping inquiry is a limited exercise. In a reply to a parliamentary question, the Minister said his concern and the reason for changing the terms of reference were the decision in the case of Shatter against Guerin by the Supreme Court.
We need to recognise that the scoping inquiry being conducted by Judge Haughton is a different type of exercise. It is limited in what it seeks to do and it will set out the extent of an inquiry that should take place. The differences between the terms of reference as provided by Judge Haughton in April and as suggested by the Department of Justice and Equality in July are significant. Our concern is that the terms of reference to which Judge Haughton is now operating water down the extent to which he can provide a detailed suggestion to Government that issues should be investigated. For instance, we know that the February 2019 terms of reference permitted the judge to review the investigation that had already taken place. This term was also contained in the terms submitted by the judge to the Department in April 2019. However, in the terms of reference provided by the Department to the judge in July 2019, we are told that the judge is limited to taking into account the outcome or reports of investigations or inquiries that have already taken place. This is a limitation in terms of what the judge can examine.
Another area where there has been limitation is that the terms of reference submitted by Judge Haughton stated that in its deliberations the scoping inquiry should have regard to the provisions of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. This was not included in the terms of reference provided by the Department in July 2019. I do not know why that has been removed or omitted. Also, the terms of reference drafted by Judge Haughton specifically provides that the scoping exercise should have regard to the documentation gathered for the statutory inquest into Shane's death. This is not included in the terms provided by the Department in July 2019.
As I said earlier, I note that the Minister has concerns about the case of Shatter v. Guerin but the problem that arose in that case was that a report, whether it was a scoping report or not, was produced by the investigator and it contained findings in respect of the former Minister, Alan Shatter, when he had had no opportunity to put forward his side of the story to the investigator. The investigator, as we know, had an opportunity to speak to another affected party who gave an account that would have differed from that of former Minister, Alan Shatter. There is no similar type of issue operating in the circumstances of this case. Judge Haughton will not produce a scoping report that will contain findings against any individual in the same way as the Guerin report contained findings against the former Minister, Alan Shatter.
I recognise, however, that when we are establishing terms of reference for inquiries it is important that we contain precision within them. I know that Judge Haughton, if preparing terms of reference for a future requiring, will, if he thinks it appropriate, be very precise in setting out what those terms of reference should be. I agree, as I am sure the Minister does as well, with the judgment of Mr. Justice O'Donnell in the Supreme Court, where he spoke about how the lack of clarity about the legal nature of anad hoc inquiry as a preliminary exercise can give rise to undesirable uncertainty both as to the steps required and the legal principles to be applied to such an exercise. However, in the instance of this scoping exercise we do not see any such issues arising.
In the circumstances, I would ask that the Minister and the Government re-engage with Judge Haughton, who presumably has done a huge amount of work in respect of a scoping inquiry, and tell him that they are prepared to allow him to consider a scoping inquiry under the broader terms of reference suggested by him in April 2019. Judge Haughton is a former member of the Judiciary. He put forward these terms of reference in the knowledge of what was contained in the case of Shatter v. Guerin. They were reasonable terms of reference. They were not terms of reference that were drafted by some ad hoccommittee of this House. They were precise and reasonable and they will be of benefit to whoever is the subsequent investigator, if one is appointed, in determining the extent of the issues that should be examined in respect of the death of Shane O'Farrell.
As Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice people come to me seeking inquiries into matters of public concern. We have many inquiries operating in this State. I suspect we have too many. On many occasions when people come to me seeking inquiries I tell them that I do not think their issue of concern merits an inquiry or a public inquiry. This meets with opposition and concern, particularly because it is an opposition party that will not support an investigation into a matter. However, when I review the circumstances of the death of Shane O'Farrell and I examine them objectively and carefully, I believe an inquiry is merited. I do not say that because of the trauma that the O'Farrell family have endured or because of the tragedy that is at the heart of this issue - the loss of life of young Shane O'Farrell - I say it because I think there are issues that the O'Farrell family deserve answers to and there are issues that if answered would benefit this State. It is for this reason I think the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton should be enlarged.
I thank my colleague, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, for tabling this motion for discussion tonight. We will all agree that we should not be here discussing this in the sense that this matter should have been dealt with properly and conclusively in the first instance. It is regrettable that we find ourselves in this situation.
My colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, alluded to the concept of justice. We all know the famous maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. Unfortunately, the O'Farrell family will probably never achieve justice to their satisfaction but we are all agreed that there is a huge onus and obligation on us to assist them in getting to the truth in terms of how a man with such a history and litany of convictions behind him was in a position to carry out the act which deprived Shane O'Farrell of his life. I want to pay tribute to the O'Farrell family, whom I met on many occasions in my role as Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice. Their campaign and dedication to getting to the truth of what happened to their loved one, Shane O'Farrell, has been remarkable. I heard Lucia O'Farrell on radio last week again laying out all the facts of the case.
During the timeline over which we have been discussing these events there has been Garda reform, reform of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission reform, the establishment of a new policing authority, various reports by the Garda Inspectorate, the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and a new Garda Commissioner. There have been many new dawns and many new reports. The case of Shane O'Farrell is a blight on An Garda Síochána. It does not give me any pleasure to say that. I do not think it gives any of us any pleasure to say it. We need to get to the truth of the matter.
Reference was made to the Independent Review Mechanism, which examined a submission made by the O'Farrell's in regard to Shane's death. We will all recall that there were many cases sent to the Independent Review Mechanism, which was an effort by Members of this House and the Minister of the day to try to deal with some cases which people felt were badly handled or where people felt they were denied proper process or justice. This mechanism was far from satisfactory because people could only make written submissions to it and they did not get an opportunity to meet with people face-to-face. This case has been through that process and GSOC. We now need a public inquiry, the terms of reference of which we are now discussing.
I will sum up by setting out the manner in which this case has evolved. The State failed the O'Farrell family in the manner in which the death of Shane was investigated.
The State failed the O'Farrell family in the manner in which the death of Shane was prosecuted. The State failed the O'Farrell family in the manner in which the complaints around the investigation and the prosecution were handled by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, and the State is continuing to fail them through the attempt to limit the terms of reference which we are discussing here today. It is incumbent on us all to give the opportunity to go with the terms of reference that Judge Haughton provided in April 2019 and allow the inquiry to work to get to the truth. If we narrow the terms of reference, that will narrow the scope within which the work can take place and it will also narrow the findings and recommendations that can be made. It does not serve us at all well to any end. I urge the Minister to accept the motion proposed by my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan.
I move amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann:” and substitute the following:
— the death of the late Shane O’Farrell was a dreadful tragedy for his family and loved ones, and the circumstances surrounding his death raise a number of questions; and
— the State has endeavoured to answer these questions through an extensive investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and a review by the Independent Review Mechanism;
— following the completion of both criminal and disciplinary investigations by GSOC, and in an effort to progress motions passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas calling for a public inquiry into the circumstances of the death of the late Shane O’Farrell, the Minister for Justice and Equality, in February 2019, appointed a retired District Court Judge, Gerard Haughton, to conduct a scoping exercise with a view to advising the Minister if there were matters concerning the death of Shane O’Farrell that required further inquiry/investigation and, if there were, to provide draft terms of reference for said inquiry/investigation;
— the Minister for Justice and Equality invited the O’Farrell family to engage with Judge Haughton;
— throughout the process, the Department of Justice and Equality consulted with the Office of the Attorney General;
— the terms of reference of the scoping exercise must be compliant with the line of jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court in the case of Shatterv.Guerin;
— the case of Shatter v.Guerin addressed inter alia the scope of preliminary inquiries established by Government, the precision required of terms of reference and the constitutional procedures that must be observed in such exercises;
— the Shatter v.Guerin judgment was delivered subsequent to the transmission of the draft terms of reference to Judge Haughton;
— the Minister for Justice and Equality’s only concern in relation to the scoping exercise is that it be conducted in accordance with the law and that any recommendations made by Judge Haughton at the conclusion of the exercise are legally robust;
— the terms of reference of the scoping exercise were finalised, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, on 23rd September, 2019, and, in accordance with those terms of reference, Judge Haughton is required to provide an interim report within eight weeks of commencement;
— Judge Haughton has advised the Department of Justice and Equality that he expects to be in a position to provide the Minister for Justice and Equality with his interim report by Friday, 15th November, 2019, though he is willing to delay this to accommodate further engagement with the O’Farrell family; and
— Judge Haughton’s interim report will set out, inter alia, the timeframe for the completion of the scoping exercise; and
— while the terms of reference of the scoping exercise are focused, as required by the law, they allow for review of all of the issues intended;
— Judge Haughton is free, in his final report, to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry;
— the O’Farrell family are free to make any representations to Judge Haughton in relation to any matter that they would wish to see inquired into in any future inquiry; and
— the terms of reference of the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton should remain as follows in order to ensure compliance with the law as set down by the Supreme Court in Shatter v.Guerin:'In light of the public controversy surrounding the circumstances of the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell on the 2nd August 2011 and having regard to the motion passed by Dáil Éireann on 14th June 2018 and Seanad Éireann on 13th February 2019, calling for the establishment of a public inquiry into the matter;
Taking into account:
— The outcome or reports of investigations or inquiries that have already taken place related to the death of Mr. O’Farrell, including the reports of the investigations carried out by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the outcome of the Independent Review mechanism;
— Any changes that have been made to the information sharing systems or procedures operating between An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and other relevant State bodies, in so far as they are relevant to dealing with persons subject to bench warrants or conditions attaching to the granting of bail and suspended sentences, since the death of Mr. O’Farrell.
To advise the Minister for Justice and Equality:
— Whether there are any circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. O’Farrell which warrant further investigation or inquiry beyond those already carried out;
— Whether any inquiry is necessary into the systems and procedures for the sharing of information between An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and other relevant State bodies operating at the time of Shane O’Farrell’s death;
— The form of any such investigation or inquiry;
— Its terms of reference; and
— The suggested composition of the investigation or inquiry.
To report to the Minister for Justice and Equality by mid-November 2019 with an interim report indicating, inter alia, the expected timeframe for completion of the scoping exercise.'."
In response to Deputies O'Callaghan and Niall Collins, I agree with much of what has been said. At the heart of the matter we are discussing this evening is the dreadful loss of a loved one by the O'Farrell family. As we have done on previous occasions, I again express my sincere condolences and those of the Government to the O'Farrell family on the tragic loss of Shane O'Farrell. While the Government has put forward a countermotion on this matter, I want to stress and acknowledge that we are all working towards achieving the same goal. That is finding an appropriate response to the acute pain of the O'Farrell family arising from the dreadful loss and to their search for answers. In this context, I am glad of the opportunity to clarify a number of important issues in relation to the matter. I look forward to a fact-based debate on how we can fully address this matter in a way that is not only legally robust but of course legally compliant.
The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have been addressed on several occasions in this and the other House, most recently in this House last week on 7 November. As I said then, the terms of reference of the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton were finalised in September. I want to assure the House that there is no intention on my part or on the part of the Government to way limit or constrict the scoping exercise in any way. I share the concern of Deputy O'Callaghan that this House can and must assist the O'Farrell family in pursuit of answers to legitimate questions as posed. In this regard, the terms of reference for the scoping exercise are focused, as required by the law, which as Deputy O'Callaghan has acknowledged is clearly set out by the Supreme Court case of Shatter v.Guerin, to reduce the risk of legal challenge to the recommendations of the scoping exercise. That judgment requires the terms of reference of a scoping exercise to be as specific as possible to remove potential ambiguity and focused enough to promote a timely outcome to ensure fairness to all of the parties involved. However, they still allow for review of the issues intended, including the issues raised in the motion as put forward this evening.
Second, I requested Judge Haughton to make an initial report to me within eight weeks of the commencement of his work. I am expecting to receive that interim report this Friday, 15 November, although I understand that Judge Haughton is willing to delay this to accommodate further engagement with the O'Farrell family. That report as soon as it arrives on my desk will be shared with the O'Farrell family. As set out in the Government's countermotion, Judge Haughton will, among other elements in that interim report, set out the expected timeframe for completion of the scoping exercise he has been charged with. He will advise me whether there are any circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. O'Farrell which warrant further investigation or inquiry beyond those already carried out. He will advise me whether any inquiry is necessary into the systems and procedures for the sharing of information between the Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and other relevant State bodies operating at the time of the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell. He will advise me as to the form of such investigation or inquiry. He will advise me as to its terms of reference and he will advise me as to the suggested composition of the investigation or inquiry. He will do that at the earliest opportunity.
In terms of his final report, I want to be very clear that Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. It is also the case that the O'Farrell family is free to make any representations they wish to Judge Haughton in relation to any matter they wish to see inquired into, in any future investigation or inquiry. Should Judge Haughton recommend an inquiry, of whatever type, he has been asked to provide draft terms of reference for such an inquiry, as was mentioned by Deputy O'Callaghan and with which I fully agree.
I am anxious to see real progress on this matter. However, I would ask Deputies to appreciate that I cannot and should not prejudge Judge Haughton's report or change his terms of reference, just as he is about to issue his initial report to me, especially in any way that does not comply fully with the law of the land. I would like to take the opportunity to respond directly to the concerns I have heard expressed in relation to the terms of reference of Judge Haughton's scoping exercise. As Deputy O'Callaghan and other Deputies will appreciate, in setting up the scoping exercise itself and in determining its terms of reference, I am bound to be guided by legal advice from the Attorney General. The terms of reference of the scoping exercise must be complaint with the line of jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court's decision in Shatter v.Guerin. As Minister for Justice and Equality I must act within the law and I would expand that to say so must all of us collectively in this House. The terms of reference provided to Judge Haughton respect the law but I will repeat the point that there is absolutely no impediment on Judge Haughton to make any recommendation he sees fit, including establishment of any form of future inquiry if he considers that necessary and appropriate. Again I repeat that the O'Farrell family are free to make any representations to Judge Haughton in relation to any matter that they would wish to see inquired into in any future inquiry.
Judge Haughton is an experienced judge. Judge Haughton is a respected judge. He is also very dedicated to the work he has been asked to undertake, for which I am most grateful to him. I know that Judge Haughton has been engaging with the O'Farrell family and I would hope to see that engagement continue in this sensitive and tragic case. This could be the fifth or sixth time that this House has had an opportunity to deal with these issues. As I asked on the first occasion on which we had an opportunity to debate this issue, I ask Deputies to reflect on the situation. I ask Deputies to acknowledge the points that I have laid out and to join me in seeking to make progress on this matter, while at the same time and at all times, as we should, respecting the operation of the law process. In the meantime, I look forward to receipt of Judge Haughton's initial report in the coming days which will undoubtedly ensure progress in what is a dreadful, tragic case and on which we all seek solutions.
I am sharing time with Deputies Ó Laoghaire, Ó Caoláin and Adams. I want to acknowledge the O'Farrell family and the work they have done on this. I particularly acknowledge Lucia who has been absolutely tremendous in her energy and dedication to ensuring justice is found for her son, Shane, who lost his life on 2 August 2011.
That brings us to this evening's discussion on this case. I listened to the Minister discuss where terms of reference came from. I know from reading his speech and from listening to him that he is informing us that the Government is not going to stand in the way of anything, is absolutely determined to achieve success in this and will not influence negatively how this will all play out. The difficulty is that the terms of reference first suggested by Judge Haughton are different from the terms of reference put before us by the Department. That is a contradiction.
For the Minister to say that he and the Government are determined to follow this through, and to use the Shatter v.Guerin case as a reason for that, rings very hollow for the family in the tragic circumstances they find themselves in. He also mentioned that he expects Judge Haughton to submit the interim report in the next number of days. The Minister said the judge is going to make some recommendations as to the expected timeframe for completion of the scoping exercise. He broke away from his script and went into other recommendations or issues he expects the judge will deliver to him. That is something most of us were aware of, that is, that an interim report was due from the judge shortly but that it would only deal with the timeframe and that everything else would be, as the Minister explained, advice as regards what he felt it should go into. It is all well and good to put that on the record, but the reality is that these issues need to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, we have a situation where this man from Lithuania was driving a car at speed and killed a young man out cycling. Any reasonable person looking at the reality of this case would conclude that he seemed to get away scot-free. That is the problem. The State has covered up this situation for too long and has covered up something that is very rotten at the core of it. That is something that we need to get to the heart of, for the Government's sake as much as for anyone else's sake. I hope the Government acknowledges that we need to get to the truth of what has happened here.
Sinn Féin has tabled an amendment to the motion, which we will move. It is a very short amendment and relates to the relationship, official and unofficial, of Mr. Gridziuska with An Garda Síochána handlers of informers. We feel, as would anyone looking at this situation, there is an issue here that has not been recognised heretofore and that needs to be included in any scoping exercise or fair review of what happened because we believe that that particular issue has in many cases around the country led to tragic circumstances. This is only one of such tragic circumstances.
The Minister's pronouncement that he is determined to recognise that the law has to be followed and to ensure that it is followed properly in all of this would sound good if we were in a situation where people could see evidence of that. The evidence before us is that the Government is continuing to shift the situation to one side and to ensure that that will not happen. I hope that the Minister will withdraw the Government amendment this evening, that both the Government and Fianna Fáil will accept our amendment, which was tabled in good faith, and that the Government will support the amended motion to ensure it delivers on this. Supporting this motion, which undoubtedly will get through when it is voted on at the end of this week, is only one thing. It puts in place a motion that does not bind the Government but it needs to step up to the mark and ensure it delivers for this family.
Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh Lucia O'Farrell and her family. Ba mhaith liom mo bheannachtaí a thabhairt dóibh, dá misneach agus dá fírinne i dtaobh ceartas a bhaint amach ar son Shane O'Farrell. This is, as we all know the second time, that the family of Shane O'Farrell have had to sit through a motion challenging the failure of the justice system to deliver truth about his death. I thank Teachta O'Callaghan and Fianna Fáil for tabling this Private Members' motion.
The death of Shane O'Farrell, as we can all appreciate, was a devastating blow to his family. The bad decisions by An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, the justice system and the Minister for Justice and Equality have added to their hurt. Lucia O'Farrell has raised concerns about how the DPP functions on other decisions, of which the Minister is very well aware. For example, the case of Crevan Mackin reinforces this. Mackin killed Garda Tony Golden after the DPP decided not to charge him with offences he had admitted to, including possession of weapons and explosives. It is suspected that one of these weapons was used to kill Garda Golden.
Some three years ago this month, the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny met the O'Farrell family. He told them that he would ask the Attorney General to request that the Law Reform Commission examine how the DPP could be made more accountable. I have written several times to the Taoiseach, including to our current Taoiseach, to this Minister and to the Law Reform Commission about this, and I have yet to receive a response. Perhaps the Minister could tell us tonight where stands the former Taoiseach's request to the Law Reform Commission.
In 2018 and in February the Dáil and Seanad voted in favour of a motion calling for a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell. The Minister has ignored this. He appointed a retired judge, Judge Haughton, to conduct a scoping exercise. He told the Dáil, and he repeated this ad nauseamtonight, that he had placed no restrictions on Judge Haughton. When in April, the judge submitted his terms of reference, the Department of Justice and Equality to its shame rejected them. Worse, the terms of reference produced by the Department removed any reference to the European Convention on Human Rights or any investigation into the previous prosecutions of the man responsible for Shane's death, and narrowed the original terms of reference.
I have met Lucia O'Farrell and her family many times. They are very brave and very determined. They are another one of those families forced to cope with the loss of a loved one and being faced with a political system that seeks to close down efforts to get to the truth, and ignores the democratic decision of the Oireachtas and the imperative of the Dáil and Seanad motions. That is true also for the Stardust families and for the families of Seamus Ludlow, Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters who were murdered in County Louth. Some 13 years ago, the Minister will recall that the then Joint Committee on Justice, Equality Defence and Women's Rights recommended two commissions of investigation into Seamus's murder. The Government has refused to do this.
It is time that the Minister supported these families. He should not be here to represent the system. The system does not get it right all the time, as he should know. The Minister is here to represent citizens. It is time he supported the O'Farrell family and I would urge him to do the decent thing and to support this motion.
Ba mhaith liom clann Shane O'Farrell a mholadh as an seasamh láidir a ghlac siad ar son Shane. Táimid uilig ag smaoineamh oraibh anocht agus ar Shane agus tá süil agam go dtiocfaidh an fhírinne amach ar deireadh.
I welcome members of the O'Farrell family here tonight in a spirit of solidarity but also in the hope that their long journey to secure both truth and justice will soon come to a successful conclusion. No family should have to bear the burden of effectively going up against the State while also carrying the burden of loss of such a beloved family member.
I welcome the announcement that Judge Haughton may be able to publish his initial report in the next few days. I say that fully understanding any apprehension that the family may still about today's report and the concerns that it will yet come to fruition.
In July of last year, I implored the Minister for Justice and Equality to establish a public inquiry and I do so again this evening. The intervening 16 months since that motion, which called for such an inquiry, was passed by a majority of this House have seen increased pressure placed on the O'Farrell family.
They know that they have the support of Sinn Féin, other parties and independent voices in this House. They know that in June 2018 a Dáil motion was passed calling for an independent inquiry. That should have been the end of their struggle and their search for the truth.
Someone or other should have been appointed then to take the search forward, but it did not happen. In their search for the truth, while the memory of Shane sustains them, the O'Farrell family are motivated by the firm wish that no other family will ever suffer the prolonged agony they have had to endure. From my experience as a Teachta Dála over the past 22 years plus, and as the current Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, I believe a public inquiry is the only way this can be achieved. We cannot establish properly what changes need to be made, what systems need to change and what legislation may be required, or required to be amended, without getting to the bottom of what went so horribly wrong. We need to establish why Shane is not with his family today.
Shane's family have shown tenacity and great dignity, to such an extent that another great wrong would be perpetrated against them if they were not granted the means of establishing the truth. Establishing the truth for Shane, which will not replace the future stolen from him, may serve as a fitting legacy to his all too short life. Go raibh suaimhneas síoraí aige i gcónaí.
Ba mhaith liom iarraidh ar an Aire glacadh leis an rún agus leis an leasú os comhair an Tí. Ba mhaith liom ómós a thabhairt do theaghlach Shane of Farrell as an obair atá déanta acu. I pay tribute to the O'Farrell family on their commitment and determination.
This issue and everything surrounding the death of Shane O'Farrell are important for several reasons, the most important being that the O'Farrell family has lost Shane. There is nothing we can do to change that but the family deserves answers and the truth as to what happened in the lead-up to his death. Another reason is that this is a matter of public interest. It is a matter of public interest in that institutions of State that are responsible for the administration of justice and for pursuing individuals to bring them to justice failed. That is demonstrably clear. The problem we have had, which has been going on for far too long, as has been acknowledged by Deputy O'Callaghan and the Taoiseach, is the back and forth on the terms of reference. The Dáil and Seanad voted for a public inquiry. It is the best means and I hope that is what comes out of Judge Haughton's recommendations. I do not believe the scoping inquiry was necessary. Public inquiries were brought about before without a scoping exercise.
I raised criticisms. Deputy O'Callaghan said he did not criticise the exercise at the start and the terms of reference, which is fair enough. In any setting of terms of reference, however, one is setting a floor. I felt the floor was being set to low. The engagement between the family and Judge Haughton resulted in the floor being lifted a little, but now the Department has gone back on it. The heart of the problem with the attitude of the Department of Justice and Equality, considering many of the responses to debates regarding the revised terms of reference, is that it seems to be unwilling to contemplate the fact that the reviews undertaken already were inadequate, flawed and bad. That they were flawed does not seem to be possible in the eyes of the Department and in any of the positions that have been adopted. It seems clear to me and many other parties, including many independent observers, that the GSOC report was significantly flawed as well as delayed. The independent review mechanism was also not adequate to bring the answers to light in regard to the numerous failures that existed. The Minister has instanced the case of Shatter v. Guerin and the precedent caused by that. The Minister has paid tribute to Judge Haughton. It would be very surprising if Judge Haughton were ignorant of the implications of that case. I am sure he was knowledgeable about it and understood its implications and what it meant for the terms of reference he was recommending to the Minister. It seems to be a debate about the extent to which it needs to be specific. Obviously, there can be differences in degree but I do not believe it is the case that the Shatter v. Guerin case means absolutely everything has to be nailed down and nothing else can be considered. That is a significant problem with this.
The terms of reference we have ended up with are not right. The initial ones were not right. It would probably have been better to move to a public inquiry first. I hope that is what comes out of this. It is necessary not only to get answers and the truth of what happened but also because we need to understand what may have gone wrong with the Director of Public Prosecutions and other institutions of the State. It seems there was a very significant failure.
It is now well over eight years since Shane O'Farrell was killed in a tragedy in August 2011. He was lawfully cycling his bicycle near his home in Carrickmacross. It was clearly an horrific and traumatic tragedy for a brilliant young man who had just completed his thesis for his masters degree in law. Clearly, he had a very bright future ahead of him. It was a traumatic loss of a loved one for the O'Farrell family. I offer my condolences and those of the Labour Party to the family on its sad loss.
Deputy O'Callaghan outlined earlier, in comprehensive detail, the background of the man involved in the fatal collision and who, because of his previous verified criminal record and interaction with An Garda Síochána at various times, should clearly not have been at large to commit the crime. Obviously, an inquiry would have been important for the O'Farrell family, who have behaved with the utmost dignity. They have been very resolute and resilient and they have a number of unanswered questions that they have addressed in a clear fashion to various politicians, including my party leader, Deputy Brendan Howlin. These are questions to which they are clearly entitled to answers.
The motion passed by the Dáil in June 2018 called on the Government to establish immediately a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell. The support for this motion across the House demonstrated that a clear majority of Members were not satisfied with the piecemeal investigations established to that date given that there were multiple failures in the criminal justice process in the events surrounding Mr. O'Farrell's death. Piecemeal investigation meant each procedural failing was treated as a separate event, and there was no overview of the entire chain of events and of the litany of failures across different agencies and bodies that clearly had responsibilities in policing and the administration of justice.
The Government amendment to the motion, which was defeated, had acknowledged "the commitment of Government, upon completion of the disciplinary process, to consider whether there are matters that require further investigation and if so, to bring before Dáil Éireann, for its urgent consideration, any proposals that it may wish to make in this regard." When the disciplinary investigation was completed, the Government did not revert to the Dáil, as promised. It failed, as its own amendment had promised, "to bring before Dáil Éireann, for its urgent consideration, any proposals that it may wish to make in this regard." That was the first faltering step on the part of the Government. Instead of doing what was promised, the Minister appointed Judge Gerard Haughton to conduct a scoping exercise. That, in itself, is not objectionable as scoping exercises have become the norm to assist in deciding whether a full inquiry is needed and in finalising terms of reference. Judge Haughton was specifically asked to meet the family and advise on whether his terms of reference should be amended.
The Minister for Justice and Equality is on the record as stating Judge Haughton was "free to recommend any course of action" that he considered appropriate. Despite all of this, the Minister rejected the amended terms of reference subsequently submitted by Judge Haughton. Instead of accepting them, the Minister drew up new terms of reference that, on any reading, are much more restrictive than the ones originally drawn up for the judge and more restrictive than those that Judge Haughton had subsequently recommended.
The Minister has pointed out in the past 24 hours that the restriction or curtailment has arisen because of principles emanating from the Supreme Court case of Shatter v. Guerin, which the Minister has advised must now be incorporated into any terms of reference or focus of inquiry, and that this is clearly the advice of the Attorney General. This is all without bringing any proposals back to the Dáil for its consideration, as the Minister had promised. He could have obviated the need even for the motion tonight if he had addressed this in a timely fashion, as promised initially.
I compliment Deputy O'Callaghan and his party on introducing this motion. It is necessary because the Minister has not reverted to the Dáil. The motion is, in part, a compromise. It accepts and adopts the Government's view that any inquiry or investigation should be preceded by a scoping exercise. I concur with that. It is important because we meet every day or week somebody else who wishes to have an inquiry on various issues. Such inquiries are important to the individuals or groups concerned.
A significant number of inquiries are ongoing and some of them are so widespread in their content and objectives that they may never reach a conclusion or will go on for an extended period. This motion seeks to spell out, with much greater precision, what needs to be brought within the ambit of this scoping exercise. That is where I concur with the objectives of the motion.
There are two separate but linked matters on which we need Judge Haughton's view. First, we need a review of the investigations carried out to date. I refer to the criminal prosecution in respect of Mr. O'Farrell's death and the previous prosecutions relating to the same defendant, including: the fact that he had been admitted to bail; the workings of the independent review mechanism; the criminal and disciplinary investigations by the GSOC; and the inquest material. Based on that review, we need a recommendation as to whether there are remaining unanswered questions related to the circumstances of Shane O'Farrell's death that should be the subject of a further and fuller inquiry or investigation.
We also need a review of changes in law and practice in the context of bail and bench warrants. We need to know whether, because of gaps in the system, these awful events could occur again. Is it possible that another repeat offender with two suspended sentences could be granted bail by various courts in this jurisdiction and be the cause of another death? How many times does a person have to reoffend before his bail is revoked? Has there been any reform to our law and procedure to ensure that someone who has been admitted to bail on many occasions, and has been convicted and given suspended sentences that ought to have been activated, could not remain at large and behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? Could it happen again that a car, an unroadworthy vehicle with no tax, is stopped and searched by drug squad detectives and waved on? Could someone convicted of a serious criminal charge be given a custodial sentence but have it suspended on condition that he flee the country?
What is at issue is a demonstrable breakdown in the criminal justice system and a failure of the systems and methods that ought to protect ordinary citizens of this State. That sort of breakdown is not what GSOC is designed to investigate. That is the reason we need an independent inquiry. The Government may disagree with that strong assertion. It may believe that the threshold for holding a new inquiry has not been met. The Government may think that a commission would not further our understanding of this case or uncover any further facts. If so, the Minister must say so now.
A number of points made by the Minister earlier are premised upon the advice of the Attorney General. He reiterated that the Government is as eager as the rest of us here, and the wider public, to make rapid progress on this important matter for the O'Farrell family. There can be no more foot-dragging on this important matter which has been ongoing for too long. The O'Farrell family, who have acted with the greatest restraint and dignity, deserve no less than to have these important issues addressed and questions answered concerning the tragic death of their son Shane.
I pay tribute to Lucia O'Farrell and her family for pursuing this case following the tragic loss of her son Shane. I welcome Fianna Fáil's motion and the Sinn Féin amendment. We will vote in favour of both.
We know from history that when a state , its Ministers, and top personnel close ranks and bar people from accessing justice that the hurt and trauma of the original injustice is multiplied and made even harder to deal with. The loss for the O'Farrell family of their son and brother is an impossible one. The search for the truth about the events that led to that loss is an added and equally impossible burden on anyone, but to find at every turn their quest for justice is barred, obstructed and complicated is an outrageous insult not just to the O'Farrell family but to all citizens. It has to stop and it has to stop tonight.
This is the second time we have had a substantial debate on this case in the Dáil. Not for the first time, the Dáil has spoken on this and, also not for the first time, the Government has ignored the voice of the Dáil. Let me be clear: the Minister ignored the previous Dáil motion that called for an independent inquiry into all aspects of Shane's death and now he is fundamentally undermining the scoping exercise process. The Minister said numerous times that the family could meet Judge Haughton and suggest the terms of reference. In reply to a parliamentary question this year, the Minister stated, "Of course, it is open to Judge Haughton to propose changes to the terms of reference". In reality, it is the Minister and the Attorney General who set the terms of reference, making it impossible for the truth of all the events before and after Shane's death to be revealed.
The Taoiseach informed the House that Judge Haughton will be able to produce his initial report into the death of Shane O'Farrell in the next few days. The Government must clarify that the interim report concerns timelines only. The Taoiseach's comment suggests that the motion this evening is of no consequence and that the new terms are the production of this interim report. The Minister has now left the Chamber. He must clarify what he meant when he stated: "I want to assure the House that there is no intention on my part or on the part of the Government to way limit or constrict the scoping exercise in any way." He also said: "I am expecting to receive that interim report this Friday, 15 November, although I understand that Judge Haughton is willing to delay this to accommodate further engagement with the O'Farrell family." The Minister further stated:
I am bound to be guided by legal advice from the Attorney General. The terms of reference of the scoping exercise must be complaint with the line of jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court's decision in Shatter v.Guerin.
That same case was quoted to me in the High Court last Wednesday. It seems to be wheeled out quite frequently.
We must be clear that the purpose of this scoping inquiry, should be to review the failings in the mechanisms of the State in the investigation of Shane O'Farrell's death and the prosecution and sentencing of his killer. That is the key and that is the centre of the family's quest for justice and their attempt to make sense of their son's death and the loss that ensued from that. That is the only purpose it seems to me for any inquiry into Shane O'Farrell's death. I repeat, to review the failings in the mechanisms of State in the investigation of this young man's death and the prosecution and sentencing of his killer. That cannot happen under the finalised terms of reference, as the hands of the judge are tied. He is effectively barred from looking at the very core of this case and the reasons that this family has worked so hard to seek an inquiry into it in the first place. That is an absolute insult to Lucia, to her daughters, to the entire family and to the memory of Shane.
Looking back, in quick succession we have gone from terms of reference that were, first, to review the reports of GSOC, then widened to include the criminal prosecution relating to Shane's death, and the previous prosecutions and the findings of the inquest. We now find that it has been shrunk again to the current terms of reference which will only take into account the reports of GSOC, with no mention of the criminal prosecution in respect of this young man's death, or the previous prosecutions, the inquest or indeed anything that Judge Haughton originally had in the terms of reference. There was no mention of the very reason that Shane's family has pursued justice and campaigned for years for an inquiry that would shed light on the events that led to this devastating loss.
The Minister has repeatedly stated that there is no attempt to cover up or to hide the truth. If he wants us to believe that, or if words have any meaning, then he should ensure that the terms of reference of this inquiry cover all aspects concerning Shane's death - the previous prosecutions and the findings of the inquest. If he fails to do so, we can only conclude that for the State, the truth and nothing but the truth would, in the words of the deceased Lord Denning who presided over the trial of the Birmingham Six, open up an "appalling vista" for the State. It is time that we came clean and instead of dragging this out for years and years for this family, we should open up a proper inquiry into all of these events and let justice be seen to be done.
In 2011, 23 year old Shane O'Farrell was cycling and was killed in a road accident by somebody who was on bail and had multiple previous convictions for theft, drugs and road traffic offences. I have met many people in my ten years here but Shane's mother made a tremendous impact. She and her family have been tireless since 2011 in seeking justice for Shane.
The injustice comes from an inefficiency in our criminal justice system that allowed the culprit to be on the road on 2 August 2011. He should not have been on the road that night because, some time before the tragedy, a judge in Monaghan had said that if that driver was convicted of other offences, he was to be brought back before the judge and would be jailed. He was convicted subsequently but was not brought back to the court in Monaghan, where he would have received a prison sentence and so would have been in jail on that fatal night in August. He would also have been back in jail following convictions for speeding in May, possession of heroin in June, theft in July and a further conviction in July for having no tax disc. Those were all breaches of his bail bond. The question is why he was not brought back before the court. The family has not had an adequate answer to that to date. They have been failed by the system because that Lithuanian man should have been in prison.
While the Minister said he was not placing any restrictions on Judge Haughton, the family found the draft terms to be far too narrow. They wanted the previous crimes to be included and I do not think that is unreasonable. There are questions of whether the coroner and jury had all the evidence. Judge Haughton included these matters that are so important to the O'Farrell family, previous prosecutions and the statutory inquest, but the Attorney General rejected them. The new terms are very narrow and will not answer the questions. Did Judge Haughton have the freedom and space to draft the terms of reference or were they being restricted and constrained by the Department? What is the point of an inquiry that cannot answer questions and give a comprehensive report? Does the Minister really want to find the truth. Serious errors resulted in a man being at liberty when he should never have been at liberty and so able to cause this tragic death. We have the irony of the two members of US Veterans for Peace, one 78 and the other 82, who have never committed a crime in this country, being on really strict bail conditions, whereas Mr. Gradzuiska could do anything he liked when out on bail and could also leave this jurisdiction. There are certainly injustices in that.
We have had Dáil and Seanad votes for a full public inquiry. It is regrettable that the family still needs to campaign for justice. I heard Shane's mother speaking in the Mansion House some time ago. Her wish was that no other family would have to endure what they have endured. I heard the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, speak about potential legal challenges, the interim report and the judge having freedom etc., but the family's confidence must be seriously undermined at this stage. I dislike the word "closure" because there will never be closure for the O'Farrell family but at least there can be answers. They have been campaigning for more than seven years. They should be able to let Shane rest in peace and to rest in peace themselves, but justice is demanded first.
The facts of the case have been laid out already tonight by a number of Members and the facts speak for themselves. I offer my support to the O'Farrell family and their ongoing struggle to make the State recognise and realise the significance of their case and circumstances. It is appalling that they have to do this. It is sad that it has had to be raised so many times in this House.
Unfortunately, the Department of Justice and Equality is not doing what it should be doing to look after citizens of this country. It has decided that it looks after the State or some such mad thing. I think the Department of Justice and Equality is the root of many problems in the State. We have had problems with the gardaí over many years which may be getting sorted out now by having dragged the Department of Justice and Equality, kicking and screaming, to making changes within An Garda Síochána. Unfortunately, I doubt there will be change in the Department, which is sad. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and, last week, we had the Secretary General of the Department in to talk about what a fantastic new body the Department is. It is the same Department of Justice and Equality and that is a problem we have across the board. The stumbling block in all these cases is the Department of Justice and Equality because it sees itself as some sort of divine saviour of the State, of Ireland Inc., or whatever it is, and the last wall of defence. It should be working on behalf of all the citizens of this country to ensure everybody can have a fair say and get a fair hearing.
It is a sad reflection on it that the O'Farrell family has had to go through this since 2011 just to try to get the State to recognise that answers need to be given to this family. All they are looking for is answers but they seem to pose questions that are too big, that the Department will not be able to answer or does not want to answer, because it might do something to undermine the so-called State we have. What is actually undermining the State is the function that this Department plays in blocking citizens from getting decisions and a hearing on what can be done. There is no doubt, in the O'Farrell case, that the Garda, the Courts Service, the Department itself and the Director of Public Prosecutions all have questions to answer. Those questions need to be answered for everyone in this State so that everybody can have faith that the organs of the State will work on behalf of the people and not against them.
There have been three sets of terms of reference for this inquiry. The Department of Justice and Equality proposed terms of reference in February 2019 and then restricted them in July 2019. It shows the Department constantly changing the story and restricting this to prevent the truth from coming out. That is wrong and we have to get to the bottom of it. I commend the O'Farrell family for continuing to fight on to make sure they get to the bottom of it. Sadly, if they were not fighting it, we can be certain the State would not get to the bottom of it for them.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this motion this evening and happily support it, to ask the Government to acknowledge that the Department of Justice and Equality's terms of reference do not address the needs of the O'Farrell family. Shane O'Farrell, a bright young man with an abundance of opportunities before him, had his life cut short in a hit-and-run road traffic incident on 2 August 2011. The perpetrator of the act was a man who had a long record before the criminal courts over the previous three years, with more than 40 convictions. The driver had previously broken bail conditions a number of times and had been sentenced to a prison term which the records show he did not serve. The driver was on bail at the time of Shane's tragic death.
On 5 February, the Minister for Justice and Equality announced the appointment of District Court Judge Gerard Haughton to conduct a scoping exercise into matters surrounding the events leading to the death of Shane. The Minister stated that Judge Haughton was free to recommend any course of action which he considered appropriate. On 24 April, Judge Haughton submitted final terms of reference to the Minister for Justice and Equality. On 29 July, the Department of Justice and Equality rejected the terms of reference submitted by Judge Haughton and provided terms of reference significantly narrower than the judge's terms of reference and those provided by the Minister for Justice and Equality on 5 February. I find it bizarre that this Government can give a blank cheque to a judge to pursue a course of action and then, when the time comes to move forward, it ends up backpedalling so much that the chain has come off the wheels of justice.
I welcome the parents and sisters of Shane O'Farrell. An incident, accident or event such as this is probably the one thing that is the nightmare of every parent in this country. The subsequent events have been heartbreaking and upsetting for the family. Even though it was on 2 August 2011, it would not matter if it were now, or in ten or 50 years' time, because it would be still heartbreaking for the family, friends and relatives. For this situation to arise, with the person who was the cause of this event being on bail at the time, is surely an indictment of how poor our system is. Nobody should be in a position to be out on bail, to be the cause of an accident and to take away a respectable young man's life, with every hope and dream that person had.
Nobody should take away the right that person had, the same as any of us, to go about his work and to carry on his life. To have all of the hopes and aspirations that young man had wiped out like that is so sad.
That is why I wanted to be here, along with my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group, out of pure respect for the late Shane and his family, and rightly to support this motion in the House. I want to thank everybody involved for highlighting this. We should be seen to do everything possible to try to bring about proper justice and to do our part, which is the right thing to do. On the one hand, I am sorry that the family have to be here, but on the other, I am glad they are here, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta O'Callaghan. I thank Deputy O'Callaghan for bringing forward the motion. I wholeheartedly welcome Shane's mother and father and his four sisters.
This motion is a testimony yet again to the loving and determined perseverance of Shane's mother, father and sisters, who I salute. It is a scandal of the highest order that such efforts have to be made repeatedly to try to bring into the light the full facts as they relate to the tragic and entirely unavoidable death of this young man. Where would we be if Shane's mother and family had allowed themselves to be beaten down by the weight and might of a judicial system that seems to care nothing for the truth - I do not say that lightly - and only concerns itself with hiding the facts?
On 14 June 2018, a majority of Dáil Members voted in favour of a motion calling for a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell, and this was followed by a unanimous vote in the Seanad. Support for this motion demonstrated that a majority of the Dáil and Seanad were and are satisfied with the investigations established to date to establish the full facts surrounding the multiple failures of the criminal justice process to prevent the death of Shane O'Farrell. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, should hang his head in shame.
This motion is a testimony yet again to the determined perseverance of Shane's mother, father and sisters. It calls on the Government to acknowledge that the Department of Justice and Equality's terms of reference do not address the needs of either the O'Farrell family or the resolution of the Dáil of 14 June 2018. It also calls on the Government to adopt terms of reference for the scoping exercise as drafted by Judge Gerard Haughton, who consulted the O'Farrell family, which they appreciate, as those terms reflect the spirit of the resolution of the House as it is laid before us.
Nothing less than this will satisfy Shane O'Farrell's family, and they are right. I salute them and, in particular, I salute Mrs. O'Farrell. They will never have Shane's young life restored to them, but they are doing this in the interests of other families and other people. I will not call it an accident. It was an incident of outrageous proportions, with the person having been stopped by gardaí only an hour beforehand. This person had been out of the country and was wanted in other jurisdictions. It is disgraceful. That is going on under the Ministers' noses, day in, day out.
Although I hate to digress, we have Deputy Grealish standing up here to talk about the situation of scamming in this country, with moneys being exported, and we are all shouted down as racists. We are not racists. If anything, the Government is racist against its own people. This man should not have died and his family should not have to beg and scrape and borrow. I support the family's neighbours, who came with Mrs. O'Farrell to be outside the gates of Leinster House. We Independents met them very early on. The Government did not want to meet them - all promises, empty promises. Justice must be done, and not only must it be done, it must be seen to be done, and it is not being done. There is something very rotten, sincerely rotten, in the Department of Justice and Equality. It is not only this. It is happening with the prison officers. There is cover-up after cover-up, bullying and intimidation. There is something very rotten in the state of Denmark and something very rotten in the Department of Justice and Equality.
The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, knows this, although he will be going out of the Department very shortly when the next election is held. He should stand up as a proud Cork man and say what is going on - the cover-ups, the slime, the bullying, the mistreatment of ordinary people. It is disgusting, day in, day out. We saw it in the Garda Síochána with our friend from Cavan. It is going on with the prison officers. There is unbelievable intimidation of good people and the Ministers sit idly by and let it go ahead. They should hang their heads in shame.
Our party spokesperson, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, outlined very clearly again this evening the absolute need to have an adequate investigation and proper inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell. The motion before this House merits the approval of Dáil Éireann. I take this opportunity to convey again my sincere sympathy to the O'Farrell family on the tragic loss of Shane, their son and brother. Shane's passing is an immeasurable loss to his beloved family. As well as being a much loved son and brother, Shane was a highly respected member of his local community. I know very well that the community in the wider Carrickmacross area, south Monaghan and adjoining counties hold the O'Farrell family in the highest esteem. It is also a source of great regret in south Monaghan and adjoining areas that a young man of Shane's standing and outstanding ability lost his life in such awful and preventable circumstances.
Unfortunately, the O'Farrell family has been failed by this State and that failure continues today. I was glad to be able to contribute to the previous Fianna Fáil Private Members' motion on this issue of such importance, not just to the O'Farrell family but to all of us who want to see our criminal justice system do justice to every family and individual in our State. Every right-thinking person wants justice to be done. The terms of reference, as outlined so coherently by Deputy O'Callaghan, are essential to get to the truth. It is truly shocking that it has taken so long to get to the truth in regard to the death of a 23 year old cyclist in a hit-and-run accident quite close to his own home.
Deputies Jim O'Callaghan and Niall Collins, and other Members of the House, spoke earlier of the great dignity of the O'Farrell family in their campaign for justice for their son, Shane. I have heard Shane's mother, Lucia, speak on national radio and on our local radio in Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath. She has always spoken so eloquently and with such dignity of the awful tragedy that has beset that family and of their quest for the truth. That campaign has been courageous and tenacious, and has commanded the attention, interest, sympathy and empathy of people throughout all of our island.
In the previous Private Members' motion, we spoke about the need for proper cross-Border policing strategies and the appropriate sharing of information between the criminal justice systems, North and South. None of us wants to see tragedies in the future arising from the dysfunctionality of systems. It is deplorable that such a series of incidents were permitted, causing the death of such a fine young man, son and brother. It is essential, as outlined so eloquently and in detail by Deputies O'Callaghan and Collins, that the terms of reference as drafted by Judge Haughton should be adopted. The terms of reference as they currently stand do not reflect the spirit of the earlier Dáil vote. Those terms of reference would not enable this State to get the full facts in regard to the dysfunctionality of some elements of our criminal justice system.
The work of the O'Farrell family has been tireless in seeking justice for Shane. The State investigation into Shane's death has failed the family, and it is similar with the prosecution and also the handling of the family's complaints. This failure will continue if these terms of reference are limited. Curtailing the terms of reference is not acceptable. The scoping exercise process should not be undermined, which is what our motion seeks to prevent.
As we know, the driver who caused Shane's death would not have been at liberty if the criminal justice system had been functioning properly. That is the sad summation of the entire tragedy surrounding Shane's loss of life.
I take the opportunity to again commend the O'Farrell family on the great dignity, perseverance and tenacity they have shown in seeking justice and the whole truth regarding the awful and preventable death of their loved Shane.
As colleagues have said, this is a very sensitive and very important matter. I have listened very carefully to the comments Deputies have made on the motion. As the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, said earlier this evening, we are all working towards achieving the same goal, namely, responding appropriately to the acute pain of the O'Farrell family arising from the terrible loss they have suffered.
There is no intention on the part of the Minister or the Government to limit in any way the scoping exercise being carried out by Judge Haughton into this matter. We want to get to the heart of the matter. Judge Haughton sent the terms of reference he drafted after consultation with the O'Farrell family on 24 April. These were based on the proposed terms provided to the judge on 11 February. Before finalising these terms of reference, advice was sought from the Office of the Attorney General to ensure there was no legal impediment to their forming the basis for the judge's inquiry. The Minister was agreeable at the time to those terms of reference and to the amendments made after consultation with the O'Farrell family.
In late February, however, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in Shatter v. Guerin, which influenced the advice provided to the Minister by the Office of the Attorney General. The Minister and the Government have been guided by this advice to ensure that this is done in a way that ensures that the recommendations of the scoping exercise are legally robust. The simple and unavoidable fact is that the scoping exercise must be carried out in accordance with the law. I ask Deputies to recognise that this is in the interests of all concerned, including, crucially, the O'Farrell family. We would not serve them well by establishing a scoping exercise without regard for the law, leaving its recommendations open to legal challenge. I ask Deputies to recognise this and, further, to reflect on the fact that the judge is due to make his initial report this month - indeed, later this week - although he has said he is willing to delay this to accommodate further engagement with the O'Farrell family.
As the Minister clearly set out earlier this evening, while the terms of reference of the scoping exercise are focused, as required by law, they still allow for review of the issues intended. Judge Haughton is free in his final report to make any recommendations he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. None of us should prejudge the report and recommendations Judge Haughton will make, nor should we risk delaying or undermining his important work, either by challenging his terms of reference when he is on the verge of issuing his interim report or by asking him to work under terms of reference which are not in compliance with the law, rendering his work vulnerable to legal challenge.
The Government, the Minister and I recognise, appreciate and share the consistent interest in this tragedy on the part of Deputies across the House. We all have the same goal. While the process has taken longer than any of us would have wished, we ask Deputies to recognise that the process should continue in accordance with the law and without the delay or additional risk of confusion that would arise if there were interference with the ongoing work of Judge Haughton at this time.
I acknowledge the presence of the O'Farrell family, who have sat through the whole debate. Their presence for the debate is reflective of their commitment to this issue, seeking justice for their beloved Shane over the past eight years. It is unfair that the system in this country puts such an obligation on a family and that they are required to come here to canvass and talk to politicians, seeking to get Ministers to agree to terms of reference and having to meet judges. It puts a huge pressure on a family, and I think we have let them down in the delay in which we have engaged in trying to bring this issue to a finality. We need to recognise that this is not an inquiry that will go on for years but a net issue that needs to be investigated, examined and reported on. It is now nearly 17 months since the Dáil voted in favour of a resolution on this matter. Had we started the inquiry at that stage, it probably would have been completed by now.
I thank all Members who spoke in the debate. I think everyone who spoke has great compassion for the tragedy the O'Farrell have gone through. However, there is also a recognition that there are questions that need to be answered. Sometimes people are hesitant about establishing public inquiries, as if they believe they should only call for them or allow them if they will establish wrongdoing. We should be confident about establishing inquiries, not simply where we believe there has been wrongdoing, as in this case, but also where we think we can benefit as a country from inquiring into events to see how we might learn about matters for the future.
The Minister referred to the amendment the Government tabled. I cannot accept that amendment. In effect, what it seeks to do is simply to get this House to endorse the amended terms of reference the Department put forward to Judge Haughton in July 2019. It would be completely contradictory to the theme of the motion we have tabled if we were to accept the Government amendment, so we will oppose it.
I have not had an opportunity to consider the Sinn Féin amendment but, to judge from what Deputy Adams stated, the issue Sinn Féin seems to want to have included is whether or not the Lithuanian man was in any way involved in working as an informer for An Garda Síochána. I had never heard that before, I am not aware of it and I do not think it has been suggested before. Nonetheless I will give consideration to the amendment and perhaps I will speak to Deputy Martin Kenny, the party's justice spokesman, about that matter.
We also need to reflect on what the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, said. He said there can be further engagement by the O'Farrell family with Judge Haughton. I know that the O'Farrell family have met Judge Haughton, and their experience of meeting him, I understand, was a positive one, but it is a matter for them as to whether or not they wish to meet him again. In fairness to the judge, he is bound by the terms of reference he has, and at present he is operating under the terms of reference dated July 2019. Irrespective of what the O'Farrell family may say to him at any meeting they may have with him, he will not be able to amend the terms of reference. He is stuck very rigidly to the terms under which he is operating.
On a number of occasions the Minister referred to the fact that an interim report from Judge Haughton is to come in the coming days. The Minister indicated he was expecting to receive it on Friday. It is important we note that, under the terms of reference of July 2019, the interim report due to be delivered by Judge Haughton indicates the expected timeframe for the completion of the scoping exercise. Therefore, as I understand it, the report he will produce on Friday will give an indication of the timeframe for him to complete his scoping exercise. His scoping exercise will therefore take longer, and I would have thought the terms of reference for that scoping exercise can be amended at this stage to enable him to consider it in the context of the broader terms of reference he put forward in April of this year.
I note that the Minister referred to the decision in Shatter v. Guerin. There were very specific issues in that case. As I said, at the heart of the case was an unfairness in the former Minister, Mr. Shatter, not having been questioned or interviewed by the investigator in circumstances in which another complainant had been, and the version the other complainant put forward was preferred by the investigator. There is no such issue here. My understanding of the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton is that he is not interviewing individuals; he is conducting a paper-based review for the purpose of doing a scoping exercise.
We should also recognise what Deputy Penrose said because there are broader issues here. When there is a public inquiry into tragic events such as the death of a person, recommendations will always be made as to how we might try to ensure, as Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said earlier, that what happened does not happen to other families in the future. For a long time Fianna Fáil has called for an amendment to our bail laws. They are too lax at present.
In 1997, the people voted to amend the Constitution so that a person could be refused bail if there was a belief that he or she was likely to commit a further criminal offence while on bail. That was given effect by the people in the referendum held at the time in an overwhelming "Yes"vote. In the opinion of Fianna Fáil, the current statutory law that exists does not reflect in full the decision of the people and there is also a need to review and amend our bail laws.
We need better IT systems in courts and within An Garda Síochána so that it is apparent immediately if somebody who comes before a court has outstanding convictions or adjourned cases against him or her or if he or she has breached his or her bail bond in any way. If we had we a proper, effective system in operation when the man came before Ardee District Court in May 2011, it would have been apparent when he was convicted of theft that he had already been convicted of theft in January of that year and the judge of the Circuit Court in Monaghan had said that, if there was another theft conviction, he was to be brought back and immediately imprisoned.
I welcome the contributions from Members. I salute the bravery and indefatigability of the O'Farrell family, particularly Shane's beloved mother, Lucia, his father, James, and his four sisters. As a country, we have let them down. Every family of a victim of crime deserves to have the State backing and support them. It is unfair of this State to force the family to repeatedly come into Dáil Éireann to meet politicians and canvass to try and get an inquiry established. It is unfair that they must plead on the radio and come in to debates in the Dáil. Had we just ordered and conducted a proper inquiry when the Dáil voted for it, that inquiry would nearly be over by now.