Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Inquiry into the Death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell
93. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the progress to date in establishing a public inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51633/21]
My question relates to the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell in County Monaghan following a hit-and-run accident in August 2011. I have often listened to Lucia O'Farrell, Shane's mother, outline with great detail and clarity the dysfunctionality of so many elements of the criminal justice system that led to Shane's tragic death. A scoping exercise was established by a previous Minister for Justice and Equality a considerable time ago. We need this public inquiry process to be progressed as soon as possible.
Gabhaim buíochas. I thank the Deputy again for raising this issue. I wish to assure the Deputy that I also, as do others in this House, recognise the ongoing pain and anguish of the O'Farrell family on the tragic death of Shane and I deeply sympathise with them on their loss.
As the Deputy will be aware, a highly respected retired Judge, Gerard Haughton, has been conducting a scoping exercise into the tragic circumstances surrounding Shane O'Farrell's death. The purpose of this exercise is to advise as to whether any further investigation or inquiry beyond those already carried out is necessary and, if so, to advise on the form of such investigation or inquiry and its terms of reference. Former Justice Haughton furnished an interim report to the then Minister for Justice and Equality in November 2019 in which he stated that he would not restrict or limit Shane's family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wished to furnish to him in his scoping exercise.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the judge is completely independent in conducting this scoping exercise. It is not open to me as Minister to comment on any aspect of the judge's work or the process of compiling the final report. My Department maintains regular contact with the judge and has assured him that any assistance he requires to complete his final report will be made available.
While I genuinely regret that this process has taken significantly longer than any of us would wish, I am also aware that the judge is doing all that he can to ensure that the concerns which the family have raised with him during the process are followed through to the greatest extent possible. I understand that Judge Haughton has been in contact with the O’Farrell family throughout his scoping exercise.
I am informed the process is now at the stage of seeking comments on various sections of the report from the parties named in it, including my Department. I also understand that Judge Haughton has been in touch with the O'Farrell family regarding this matter.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Following receipt of responses from all relevant parties, it is understood that Judge Haughton will be in a position to finalise his report. My Department will continue to provide all necessary assistance to the judge and I look forward to receiving his final report in due course.
Following receipt of the final report, in line with established process, the advice of the Attorney General will be sought on publication and any other issues arising.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the Minister for her reply. My question has been framed in the background that on 14 June 2018 we all voted in this Chamber calling on the Government to establish a public inquiry. As we all know in this House the O'Farrell family has worked tirelessly seeking justice for their only son and brother. The State failed them in the manner in which the death of Shane was investigated, prosecuted and in the manner in which the family's complaints around the investigation and prosecution was handled by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC.
Justice has to be done in regard to this exceptionally good, young man who was killed by a driver who should not have been at liberty at the time. At that time, the person who was driving that car had 42 previous convictions and was on bail in respect of several offences. He had breached the conditions of those bail bonds and was serving suspended sentences which should have been activated had the courts been informed of his convictions. It is a litany of dysfunctionality and a terrible injustice to a fine young Monaghan man.
I thank the Deputy for his question and thank him also for the work that he has done on this issue.
It is, of course, open to the judge to recommend the establishment of a statutory or non-statutory inquiry. I will await the recommendation of Judge Haughton in his final report before making any decision on further inquiries into this matter. I do not wish to pre-empt any advice which the judge considers appropriate in the circumstances following the scoping exercise.
To be clear, the Government is not opposed to the possibility of a further inquiry into this case if that is what the judge recommends. No restrictions have been placed on him in that regard. Like every Deputy, I want questions to be answered to the satisfaction of the O'Farrell family.