Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

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

 

7:45 pm

Photo of James O'ConnorJames O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I recognise this is a very difficult matter and some family members are in the Gallery. They are very welcome to Dáil Éireann today.

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

That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:
— on 2nd August, 2011, Shane O'Farrell was killed while cycling home, when he was struck by a car driven by Zigimantas Gridziuska;

— previously, Zigimantas Gridziuska came into Ireland with twelve convictions from Lithuania;

— in August 2009, Zigimantas Gridziuska was granted bail in respect of a theft charge, and he committed 30 offences while on bail before killing Shane O'Farrell;

— on 9th June, 2010, Zigimantas Gridziuska was convicted of four heroin offences, he was given a custodial sentence, he appealed this and was released on bail, and the Courts Service of Ireland have admitted filing away the appeal papers in error and the appeal was never heard, as a result of which Zigimantas Gridziuska never served the custodial sentence;

— on 17th December, 2010, Zigimantas Gridziuska was granted bail from Virginia District Court in Cavan, and despite breaching bail conditions, bail was not revoked, and this case was not dealt with until after he killed Shane O'Farrell;

— on 11th January, 2011, Zigimantas Gridziuska appeared in Monaghan Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing having pleaded guilty to charges of theft and possession of stolen property. The judge adjourned sentencing for one year and continued Mr Gridziuska on bail, stating that he was to stay out of trouble and not commit any further theft offences. The judge further stated that if Mr Gridziuska was arrested for any theft offences he was to be brought back before him anywhere he was on the Circuit and Mr Gridziuska would be sent to jail. Between this Order and the killing of Shane O'Farrell, he committed 11 further offences, including nine relating to thefts, but the cases were not re-entered. When this case was adjourned for a year on 11th January, 2011, the judge did not have all of the facts and believed he had no further convictions since 1st July, 2010. In reality, information regarding Mr Gridziuska's continued reoffending had not been brought to the Circuit Court on 11th January, 2011. The judge concluded his deliberations on that date saying "he has been free of convictions, apparently... since July 2010", this was not correct and the prosecution did not correct the judge (he had in fact three convictions since 1st July, 2010);

— on 16th February, 2011, Zigimantas Gridziuska received a six-month sentence for a heroin offence. Further to lodgement of appeal he was released into the community. His appeal was first listed before Monaghan Circuit Court on 7th June, 2011, and adjourned. This was not dealt with until after he killed Shane O'Farrell, where the appeal was allowed due to deficiencies in the State's case (incorrect numbers on Garda statement for evidence bag and the incorrect items recorded in the bags);

— on 23rd February, 2011, Zigimantas Gridziuska was convicted of two theft offences, and as the offences were committed while Mr Gridziuska was on bail and subject to the Bail Act 1997 conditions, this should have been considered a breach of the conditions of bail and should have been referred to the relevant court;

— on 9th May, 2011, in Ardee District Court, Mr Gridziuska was convicted of multiple counts of theft, yet not brought back before Monaghan Circuit Court where a prison sentence could have been activated, and the pleas of guilty in these cases were not only breaches of the Order made by Judge O'Hagan on 11th January, 2011, but were breaches of the bail bonds;

— on 11th May, 2011, in Dundalk District Court, Mr Gridziuska was convicted of speeding, and as this offence was committed while Mr Gridziuska was on bail and subject to the Bail Act 1997 conditions, this should have been considered a breach of the conditions of bail and resulted in him being brought back before the relevant court;

— on 8th June, 2011, in Carrickmacross District Court, Mr Gridziuska was convicted of possession of heroin, and as this offence was committed while Zigimantas Gridziuska was on bail and subject to the Bail Act 1997 conditions, this should have been considered a breach of the conditions of bail and resulted in him being brought back before the relevant court;

— on 14th July, 2011, in Newry, Mr Gridziuska was arrested for theft offences. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) informed An Garda Síochána but the Gardaí did not seek a warrant to return him to the Circuit Court as per the Order on 11th January, 2011. The convictions on 15th July, 2011, are a breach of the conditions of the Order of Judge O'Hagan of 11th January, 2011. As these offences were committed while Zigimantas Gridziuska was on bail and subject to the Bail Act 1997 conditions, this should have been considered a breach of the conditions of bail and resulted in him being brought back before the relevant court. It was also a breach of bail conditions from two District Courts, not to leave the jurisdiction (it was also a breach of bail from Carrickmacross District Court, February 2011 and the suspended sentence and bond to keep the peace from 9th May, 2011, Ardee District Court);

— on 25th July, 2011, in Monaghan District Court, Mr Gridziuska was convicted of driving without displaying a motor tax disc, and as this offence was committed while Mr Gridziuska was on bail and subject to the Bail Act 1997 conditions, this should have been considered a breach of the conditions of bail and resulted in him being brought back before the relevant court;

— all of these offences occurred before Shane O'Farrell was killed on 2nd August, 2011, and constituted a breach by Mr Gridziuska of his bail bond, yet no steps were taken to revoke the bail granted to him; and

— consequently, at the time of the collision, Mr Gridziuska was on bail in respect of a number of offences and had breached his bail bonds and was serving a number of suspended sentences, which should have been activated had the courts been informed of the relevant previous convictions and reoffending;
further notes that:
— for two weeks before Shane O'Farrell was killed, there were also numerous warrants out for the arrest of Zigimantas Gridziuska, but these warrants were not executed by the Gardaí until after he killed Shane O'Farrell;

— approximately one hour prior to the collision which resulted in the death of Shane O'Farrell, the Garda Drug Squad stopped the car in which Mr Gridziuska was travelling. At that time the vehicle was being driven by another known criminal, who it is clear was not insured to drive the car. No demand was made of this man or Mr Gridziuska to produce valid insurance to cover the driving on 2nd August, 2011. There was no valid National Car Test certificate on the windscreen. The vehicle was in a dangerous defective condition. The passengers were taken out and searched before Gardaí permitted Mr Gridziuska to assume the driving role and allowed the car to proceed. Mr Gridziuska was later prosecuted and pleaded guilty for the lack of valid insurance after he killed Shane O'Farrell. Gardaí failed to seize the car, despite being permitted to do so. Within an hour Shane O'Farrell was killed in a hit-and-run by Mr Gridziuska;

— despite Mr Gridziuska's wife withholding information, knowing that her husband had knocked someone down, and failing to inform the services, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions failed to bring charges of withholding information; and

— in January 2012, a complaint was made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) regarding the conduct and role of An Garda Síochána in relation to some of the above matters. The public interest section 101 of the Garda Síochána Act Report has never been provided to the O'Farrell family, yet it has been given to "named recipients". The family received a summary of the report only. The Garda Síochána Act 2005, Section 97 GSOC Report regarding minor discipline has also been refused to the family;

recognises that:

— there is an obligation on An Garda Síochána to bring persons convicted of criminal offences, while serving suspended sentences, before the court and to inform the sentencing court that the person has been convicted of subsequent offences;

— it is the role of the prosecution authority to bring to the attention of the court any issue of which the court needs to be aware prior to reaching a decision on the case before the court;

— where a member of An Garda Síochána becomes aware that a person has breached or is in breach of a condition of bail, there is an obligation on such member to bring that breach to the attention of the court;

— there is an obligation on GSOC to properly investigate all complaints it receives and to determine all admissible complaints in a timely fashion;

— the GSOC report was delivered in a timeframe that was not acceptable (seven years from when the complaints were submitted), and was ultimately deficient;

— this case involved multiple failures on the part of several justice agencies of the State, resulting in Zigimantas Gridziuska being at liberty on the date of the death of Shane O'Farrell; and

— it is now necessary to have the actions of An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions, GSOC, and the Courts Service examined in order to establish how such failures took place, including the information sharing systems between those agencies;
recalls that:
— on 12th June, 2018, Dáil Éireann adopted a Resolution that called on the Government to immediately establish a public inquiry into the criminal justice failings prior to, and subsequent to, the death of Shane O'Farrell; and

— on 13th February, 2019, Seanad Éireann adopted a Resolution that also called on the Government to immediately establish a public inquiry into the criminal justice failing into the death of Shane O'Farrell;
condemns that Government, since those motions were agreed, has failed to adhere to the terms of the Dáil and Seanad Resolutions, and that Ministers for Justice in place since those motions were agreed, namely Ministers Charles Flanagan TD, Heather Humphreys TD, Simon Harris TD and Helen McEntee TD, have thus far failed to establish a public inquiry as mandated by those resolutions;

furthermore, notes that:
— instead, on 5th February, 2019, Government appointed a retired District Court Judge to conduct a scoping exercise into the criminal justice failing leading to the death of Shane O'Farrell;

— the scoping exercise did not meet the calls of either Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann, being conducted in private, and that the family of Shane O'Farrell believe the report of the exercise to be incomplete and inaccurate, and Judge Haughton was not given, nor did seek, the GSOC reports which formed part of his terms of reference;

— the Department of Justice refused to waive privilege over the Independent Review Mechanism report, despite it forming one of the terms of reference of the scoping exercise;

— the scoping exercise did not explain failings in the justice system that allowed Zigimantas Gridziuska to repeatedly breach bail conditions and court orders without consequence, the failure to execute warrants, and does not explain why or how he was at liberty to kill when he should have been in custody;

— the scoping exercise failed to consider issues which were within the terms of reference yet, in instances, went beyond those terms of reference, and the scoping exercise report further made findings of fact which are disputed; and

— the family of Shane O'Farrell have not accepted the report of the scoping exercise as a full or accurate account, and this was the stated position of TDs and Senators from across the political spectrum in Dáil and Seanad debates on 17th October, 2023;
commends the family of Shane O'Farrell for their dignified pursuit for truth and justice on behalf of their son and brother; and

therefore, calls on the Government to:
— implement the previous Resolutions of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann in respect of Shane O'Farrell and immediately establish an independent public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell and the actions of State agencies before and after his death in respect of this case.

When Shane O'Farrell was killed it made headlines. He had become another statistic and another fatality on an Irish road. For those who did not know Shane and were watching on, it was another tragic traffic accident. In the immediate aftermath, as the rest of us went on with our own lives, the lives of Shane's family went into turmoil. They had lost their beloved son, their beloved brother, the light of their world. They were consumed by grief. It would be fair to say they were overwhelmed. They grieved in the expectation that the State would secure justice for Shane. It was only when the matter came before the courts they began to realise something was drastically wrong.

The man who was driving the car that killed Shane was Zigimantas Gridziuska. Upon his conviction after Shane's death the judge offered Mr. Gridziuska a choice to serve a prison sentence or to return home to his family in Lithuania. This was the moment when the name of Shane O'Farrell became that not only of a tragic statistic but of a campaign. It emerged that Zigimantas Gridziuska should have been in jail on the day that he killed Shane.

Less than one hour before Shane was killed, the car in which Mr. Gridziuska was travelling was stopped by gardaí. It had been driven by another known criminal. The car was untaxed and had no NCT but was not seized despite the gardaí being entitled to do so. The passengers, all well-known to the Garda as drug dealers, were searched but, inexplicably, the vehicle itself was not. The driver was clearly not insured to drive the car. Rather than arrest him as they were empowered to do, the gardaí instead instructed Zigimantas Gridziuska to take the steering wheel. It subsequently emerged that he was not insured to drive the vehicle either. An hour later, Shane O'Farrell was dead. It could have been prevented at that previous stop.

If that was the only failure perhaps it could be attributed to bad luck, but then more and more details began to emerge about who Zigimantas Gridziuska was and his seemingly amazing ability to avoid consequences for breaking laws in Ireland. When he first arrived in Ireland he already had 12 convictions from Lithuania. In August 2009 he was granted bail in respect of a theft charge. He would proceed to commit 30 offences while on bail. On 9 June 2010 he was convicted of drug offences. He was even given a custodial sentence but he was released on bail again pending an appeal. That appeal was never heard because the papers were misfiled by the Courts Service. You could not make this stuff up.

On 11 January 2011 Mr. Gridziuska appeared in court again and pleaded guilty to multiple charges of theft and possession of stolen property. Sentencing was adjourned but, crucially, the judge instructed the Garda that if he were to be arrested for any further offence he was to be returned to that court and he would imprison him. The following month, on 16 February 2011, he received a six-month prison sentence but was again released pending appeal. A week later, on 23 February, Gridziuska was convicted again and he walked free again. On 9 May in Ardee, 11 May in Dundalk, 8 June in Carrickmacross and 25 July in Monaghan Zigimantas Gridziuska was convicted in courts of various crimes and in each and every instance he walked free. On no occasion were the judges informed of the fact this was a man who was in breach of multiple bail conditions from multiple courts, and on no occasion was he returned to the Monaghan judge who had instructed that he would be imprisoned if he were to commit a single other crime.

One of the many bail conditions that applied to Mr. Gridziuska was that he sign on daily at his local Garda station. It transpired that for a short period during this time he was imprisoned in the North. Despite the PSNI informing the Garda of this fact, no warrant was sought to return him to Monaghan Circuit Court as per the order of 11 January 2011.

If any one of these failings had been set right Shane O'Farrell would be alive today. Regardless of the instance or the crime, the man who killed Shane O'Farrell simply could not be jailed. It was as though he was the luckiest criminal ever to walk the earth. On one occasion when he was convicted, the verdict was thrown out on appeal because An Garda had mislabelled evidence. On another, he was given community service, but never bothered to show up. There were no consequences. It is either a catalogue of mismanagement and incompetence or something far more sinister. Either way, the O'Farrell family deserves the truth and the Irish public deserves answers. If this was a catalogue of errors, it points to an utterly broken criminal justice system. The alternative, however, is much more worrying. Many people, including me, believe that Zigimantas Gridziuska was an informer and that he was permitted to wreak havoc because An Garda prioritised the protection of its source over the safety of the citizens it pledges to protect.

Since his death, Shane's family has striven to find out the truth. They have been failed, as their son and brother was failed. The catalogue of errors and failures was identified and made known to the Irish people, not by the Garda investigation, a Courts Service review, a GSOC investigation or the scoping exercise - each of which only served to delay the process - but by the tenacity of a determined mother. I welcome Lucia O'Farrell and her husband Jim and their family and friends to the Dáil. This is not their first visit. They were here in 2018 when an independent public inquiry into the circumstances of this case was first moved by Fianna Fáil and adopted by the House. It is disgraceful that motion has not been implemented. Those who have been Ministers for Justice since, including Deputies Flanagan, Humphreys, Harris and McEntee, have ignored the democratic call by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Instead, they found another mechanism for delay. The scoping exercise established by Fine Gael was not what was required and not what these Houses mandated. The scoping exercise was not independent. Its final report is incomplete and, in some instances, inaccurate. Crucially, it failed to answer the fundamental question this case presents. How the hell can someone break so many laws, breach so many bail conditions, be brought before so many courts and walk free every time before killing a young, innocent man and then be permitted to return to his home country?

It is clear the only way that question will be answered is through an independent public inquiry. This motion must be adopted. I urge TDs of every hue to vote in favour of it. More important, I call on the Minister to be unequivocal in committing in her opening statement that on this occasion the motion will be implemented. The O'Farrell family is not going anywhere. Either the current Minister does this or one of her successors will. I urge her please to do the right thing and not to force this family to come back to the Dáil again to get the answers the Irish people deserve.

7:55 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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"Every year I say to Shane, this time next year, I'll have justice for you. Each year, I say that to him. And each year we try." Those are the words of Shane O'Farrell's mother, Lucia. For 13 long years she has fought a fight that no mother should have to fight. Alongside Shane's father, Jim, and their family, Lucia has spent more than a decade campaigning for truth and justice for her beloved son. Shane was only 23 years of age when he was killed. He had his entire life ahead of him, so much potential, so much to achieve and so much to experience, but on that fateful night, 7 August 2011, Shane's beautiful future was cruelly stolen in the blink of an eye. As he cycled home, Shane was hit by a car driven by Zigimantas Gridziuska near the town of Carrickmacross in County Monaghan. It was a hit and run. Gridziuska did not stop to help. He left Shane to die a lonely death on the road.

As my colleague, Deputy Carthy, outlined, Gridziuska was a known criminal with 42 criminal convictions to his name. The big unanswered question is why he was at liberty the night he fatally struck Shane with his car. At the time, he was in breach of bail and should have been in State custody. Seven months earlier, Gridziuska was before the Circuit Court on theft charges. The judge deferred sentencing for one year, but warned him he would be jailed if he committed any further offences. Three months before the hit and run, Gridziuska appeared before Ardee court on further theft charges. The judge was not informed of the order by the Circuit Court and Gridziuska was given a suspended sentence. Incredibly, Gridziuska was again set free. He was free to go back to his life, to drive a car and to hit and kill Shane O'Farrell. Serious questions have been raised regarding Garda interactions with Gridziuska. For a long time, it has been alleged that Gridziuska was a Garda informer. He routinely broke bail laws. An Garda failed to execute court orders against him and he never served three custodial sentences imposed on him in 2010.

The O'Farrell family, who I welcome this evening, has courageously pushed and pushed for answers from An Garda Síochána and other agencies of the State. For much of this journey, they were stonewalled, ignored and, in the words of Shane's sister, Hannah, treated liked the enemy simply for asking questions. Every bit of progress achieved and every piece of information uncovered has been the result of the family's relentless efforts to obtain the truth. Six years ago, the Dáil voted in favour of establishing a public inquiry into Shane's death. Instead, the Government opted for a scoping exercise, which failed to answer the key questions of how and why Gridziuska was able so frequently to avoid custodial sentences and breach bail. Not only does the report fail to deliver the truth and a pathway to justice for Shane O'Farrell and his family, incredibly, it states that Shane bore partial responsibility for his own death. Is it any wonder that the O'Farrells withdrew their co-operation from that exercise and stated that its findings only served to retraumatise the family?

The only thing that will deliver truth and justice for Shane O'Farrell is an independent public inquiry. That is what the Dáil decided in 2018 and Sinn Féin's motion calls for that decision to be finally implemented. The O'Farrell family has been failed by the State at every turn and yet, they have kept going while coping with the pain of the tragic loss of Shane and with the ache of all the unanswered questions. Hannah once said:

We can't grieve properly and we can't grieve for Shane, the person, because there is this cloud...where we have so many unanswered questions and it's just compounding our grief.

With great courage, resilience and dignity, the O'Farrells have refused to give in or give up. The Government must now finally respond to the demands of a mother, a father and a family for justice, truth, the chance to lay the memory of their precious boy to rest in peace, for an independent public inquiry.

Photo of Pa DalyPa Daly (Kerry, Sinn Fein)
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Many things about this case are extraordinary, including the errors by the Courts Service; the freedom afforded to a man with numerous convictions in Lithuania and in Ireland to be out and about and committing more crimes; and gardaí stating they were not trained to check court outcomes and that being acceptable. All these circumstances led to the fateful night when Shane O'Farrell lost his life on roads he knew well. Extraordinary love and compassion have been shown by the O'Farrell family in their determination to see truth and justice. It is hard to think of a more fitting tribute to Shane than the efforts of Lucia, Jim and their daughter to seek to right the wrongs that led to his death. Their determination and analytical grasp of every aspect of the case has taught everyone in this House a lesson. They should not be in this situation, nor should they have to continue to demand an inquiry after Fianna Fáil moved a motion, passed by the Dáil, that an inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding Shane's death should take place. That Fianna Fáil is coming to the end of a full term in government without having made good on its commitment is not acceptable either. In all the talk around the time of the result of the Stardust inquiry, Shane's case was mentioned as well as Whiddy Island and the case of Captain Kelly. The reason for this is to ensure similar injustices do not occur again.

Could what happened to Shane occur again? We see the overburdened courts system and I spoke in the Chamber last week about waiting times in the District Court. It is easy to conclude mistakes will continue to happen. One mistake can have a huge cost. There needs to be a full inquiry so we understand what happened and understand the limitations and issues within our justice system, and so that a similar injustice can be prevented from happening again.

8:05 pm

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I pay tribute to the O'Farrell family for their determination in their quest for truth and justice for Shane. They deserve the truth. They deserve to know how and why Zigimantas Gridziuska was out on bail at the time he killed Shane on 2 August 2011. He had 34 previous convictions across three jurisdictions. He had been on continuous bail since August 2008, even though there were multiple breaches of that bail. Shane's family have established there is a file on Mr. Gridziuska in the Garda National Crime and Security Intelligence Service but they do not what is on the file. They deserve to know what it contains and whether, as many suspect, Mr. Gridziuska was a Garda informant.

The case raises serious questions for the Garda, Department of Justice, Courts Service and Director of Public Prosecutions. It raises serious issues for the criminal justice system around bail, previous convictions, coroner's inquests, the effectiveness of GSOC and transparency around the use of informers by members of the Garda. These questions need to be investigated in an open, transparent and independent manner.

In 2018, the Dáil supported a motion calling for the establishment of a public inquiry. This was followed by the Seanad supporting a similar motion in early 2019. Since then, the Government and consecutive justice Ministers have failed to establish a public inquiry as mandated by those resolutions. They instead initiated a scoping exercise which did not provide for any input from Shane's family into the terms of reference. The family's attempts to have such input was totally disregarded. Not only that, in July 2019, Mr. Justice Haughton received comprehensively amended terms of reference from the Minister that were considerably more restricted than even the Department's original. The outcome of the scoping exercise has left Shane's family very disappointed and, as they point out, has left unanswered many outstanding matters which they brought to the attention of the judge, the Minister for Justice and her Department. It seems to me and many others the purpose of the scoping exercise was not to get to the truth of this matter, but to delay and deter the truth from coming out. This has been about protecting the State and its agencies. Nothing less than a fully independent, open and transparent public inquiry is good enough. I urge support for the motion.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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Many years ago when I served as the Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice, I first met with Lucia and Jim. Lucia took a framed photograph of her beloved son to the meeting and it has never left me how devastated this hard-working, ordinary, decent Irish family was by what had happened. As Deputy Carthy said, it is not the courts, An Garda Síochána, GSOC or any of the institutions of the State that has revealed the truth; it has been the O'Farrell family. They have had to pursue justice and truth relentlessly. They have come into these Houses again and again. They must have thought when both Houses of the Oireachtas passed the resolution calling for a full public inquiry that it would happen, yet here they are again tonight. If the Government is not opposing this motion, will it please announce tonight that this inquiry will happen?

The text of the motion outlines an appalling litany of failures across the justice system in both jurisdictions, but fundamentally in this State. The suspicion is, and I firmly believe it, that Mr. Gridziuska was a Garda informer. It is the only logical conclusion I can come to, given the number of times he was released and the fact judges were not informed of the latest offences he had committed in both jurisdictions on this island. It is one of two things, both of them appalling. Either there was a litany of failures leading to that awful night when Shane was killed or there was an informer on behalf of the State whose actions were covered up again and again to lead to that awful night. We need to get to the truth. We cannot wait all those years like the Stardust families. The O'Farrell family should not have to wait as long as those families. We need to learn from that and do it right. Will the Minister please announce tonight a full, independent public inquiry?

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The tragic death of Shane O'Farrell aged just 23 years is a terrible loss and tragedy for the O'Farrell family, his friends, the wider community and everyone who had the privilege to know and love him. I acknowledge the O'Farrell family is here this evening not to hear our sympathies but I am deeply conscious such an unimaginable tragedy brings with it a dreadful and enduring grief to all their lives. The matters we are here to discuss are all too familiar to everyone in the House.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Is there a copy of the script?

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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There is not. For Private Members' business, there is never a copy.

Many colleagues were here last October when time was provided for Members of both Houses to discuss the final report of the scoping inquiry, which deals comprehensively with all the matters raised. The motion asks the House to establish an independent public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the tragic and untimely death of Shane O'Farrell, killed in a hit and run at just 23 years of age in August 2011.

Like many in the House this evening, I have met previously with his family, Lucia, Jim, Pia, Hannah, Gemma and Aimee. Their grief and loss is inconceivable. I know how strongly they feel justice has not been served for Shane and how vigorously they have campaigned for an independent public inquiry. I accept many colleagues across the House have been consistent in their calls for an inquiry.

To assist the Government in considering the Haughton report, I intend to write to the justice committee to ask it to look at the recommendations and conclusions of the report. The Government will not oppose the motion before the House in order to allow the committee time to consider the issue.

The Government decided in 2019 to establish the scoping exercise into the circumstances surrounding Shane's death. A retired judge, Gerard Haughton, was appointed by my predecessor, Deputy Flanagan, to conduct the scoping exercise and given full authority that, if a further inquiry was to be recommended, he should suggest the form of any such investigation or inquiry, provide draft terms of reference and suggest the composition of the investigation or inquiry. The position of my Department and the Government was the judge was free to make any recommendation he saw fit.

Mr. Justice Haughton submitted his final report to me on 1 June 2022. In keeping with normal practice, I sought the advice of the Attorney General ahead of publication. In November 2022, I and the then Taoiseach, now Tánaiste, met with the family on the content of the report and the plans for publication. The Taoiseach also met with members of the family in May last year when he was Minister for Justice. He brought the final report to Government on 25 April 2023. The Government noted the final report of the scoping exercise before it was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published on 3 July last year.

The Government and I as Minister remain mindful of the burden this represents for the family. It is clear from reading the 416-page report that Mr. Justice Haughton carried out a thorough review of all relevant material and has produced a robust and measured report. I thank him for that. It is comprehensive and deals with each issue raised in considerable detail. Having fully engaged with each issue and the terms of reference, the judge concludes no further investigation or inquiry is warranted beyond those already carried out. In setting out the circumstances, he was direct in his view there was a variety of factors contributing to Shane's untimely death. He further found there were no circumstances in the context of the granting, objecting to or revoking of bail, or of the monitoring of or compliance with conditions of bail, which warrant further inquiry. He makes similar findings about 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.

He makes several recommendations regarding bail, suspended sentences legislation, amendments to the Road Traffic Act and in relation to notices of appeals administered by the Courts Service. I can confirm that these are being implemented or are in process. I am grateful to my colleague the Minister for Transport for agreeing to include amendments relating to careless driving in the upcoming Road Traffic Bill, which is due later this year. The report acknowledges that new legislation has already been introduced in respect of both bail and suspended sentences.

My Department maintains a continuous review of the criminal law, which has been revised many times over the past 30 years, to identify whether any further legislation or amendments are required in relation to suspended sentences or bail. While the State's bail laws provide for the refusal of bail in certain circumstances, the presiding judge in any case is entirely independent in the exercise of his or her judicial functions. The decision to grant bail in a particular case is solely a matter for the judge. Our laws relating to bail have been strengthened in recent years, including in the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 and the Criminal Justice Act 2017. The latter Act provides for stricter bail terms for repeat serious offenders, including the use of curfews, and strengthens Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail. Obviously, this legislation has only been enacted in recent years.

The circumstances surrounding Shane's death have been subject to a criminal trial, a Coroner's inquest, the independent review mechanism and a GSOC investigation. The matters and complaints raised by the family have been considered carefully and in detail by the judge in this latest scoping exercise. It is important to note that under the relevant legislation the establishment of an independent public inquiry requires there to be significant public concern or a definite matter of urgent public importance. There is an obligation on Government to ensure that a tribunal of inquiry or a commission of investigation is established only where these thresholds are met.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this matter. As I have said, the Government will not oppose the motion and will allow time for the justice committee to consider the matter.

8:15 pm

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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On a point of order, can we get copies of the Minister's speech, please?

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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It is not normally provided for Private Member's business, or that is my-----

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It was sent to the press.

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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It was not sent to the press.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The press are reporting on it.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Please. The Deputies are asking for something. Give me a chance-----

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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They do not have my speech.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Please. We will pause the clock for a second.

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Let me tell you - they do not have my speech.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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It is not normal practice, but it would have been helpful to get it. When it is an Opposition motion, it is not normal practice to hand out copies-----

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The press were reporting on the contents of the speech before the Minister stood up, with the greatest respect-----

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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It is a very serious matter. I am simply pointing out-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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She is treating it as a game-----

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Please stop this.

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Seriously. Do not even go there, Deputy McGrath.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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She is treating it as a game-----

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Through the Chair, please.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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It is disgusting.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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For the last time, can we please deal with the subject with dignity and respect? Deputy Bríd Smith asked a question. It is not the normal practice. Some Ministers do and others do not. That is just the position. I am moving on.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I am making a request for a copy of the speech.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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I have heard you Deputy. If it is available, that would be very helpful. This is a very serious subject. I realise that it is not normal practice. Deputy McGuinness is next.

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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I commend Sinn Féin and Deputy Carthy on tabling this motion in the House again for consideration and debate. It is unusual in that on the previous occasion, Fianna Fáil joined with all others in the House to ensure that the content of the motion was passed and the Minister was asked directly for a public inquiry. Unfortunately, on this occasion, we do not get speaking time. I am using some of the time that the Minister did not use, but there are other colleagues who would also love to say something on this matter. I am sure they would repeat what they said on the last occasion and what Sinn Féin Deputies have said because it is true and is a fact. Anyone who went to the audiovisual room today to listen to the briefing given by Lucia O'Farrell and her family would be absolutely convinced by the facts, the proof and evidence that were presented to us that Deputy Micheál Martin was right when he said that the case reveals "shocking malpractice and dysfunction within the criminal justice system" at all levels. He said that the time for action "is now", but that was a number of years ago. I am repeating that and calling for action in relation to this matter.

A public inquiry is necessary, not just because of Shane O'Farrell and his untimely and terrible death but because we need to have a justice system in place in which we can believe. In spite of Judge Haughton's report, it must be said that a judge can be wrong. A judge may not have looked at all of the facts before him or her. That is a fact, and Lucia O'Farrell has put before the Members of this House evidence that this is the case. This was a scoping exercise and not about bringing forward recommendations or anything else. If democracy is to be served then what this House and Seanad Éireann have called for needs to be put in place. I certainly will not rest and will not back off from calling for a public inquiry. My colleagues in the party who spoke here previously in sincerity will not back off either. I am delighted that Deputies Brendan Smith and O'Connor are here this evening to represent that greater body of support.

I am asking that we would agree with the motion this evening and with what it calls for. I have tabled that motion previously and it has been debated in this House. I have written to the leader of the Opposition, Deputy McDonald, in relation to tabling the motion again. Now that we have it, the question is whether the Minister will put in place terms of reference for a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell before the general election is called. Will she, once and for all, commend Lucia O'Farrell and her family on the huge body of work they did, which would put Judge Haughton's review into the shade? That work provides evidence and direction on where we need to go to improve the justice system. If we do not do this, on foot of this motion, then we are doing a terrible injustice to the people of this country and to Lucia O'Farrell. In fact, we are betraying them and leading them astray, particularly when one considers the private correspondence supporting a public inquiry written by the then leader of the Opposition, Deputy Micheál Martin.

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome Lucia, Jim and Shane's family to Public Gallery. Lucia is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met and certainly that I have ever met here, in this job. The painstaking detail she has provided and the passion and commitment she has shown to this campaign is such a tribute to a mother's love for her son but she should never have had to do that. Having listened to the Minister, I am incredibly frustrated. I spent several hours with Lucia when I was my party's justice spokesperson at the time of that earlier debate in 2018 and it all came flooding back when I listened to Deputy Carthy listing the litany of failures. He spoke of failure after failure, bail breach after bail breach. It seems that there was nothing this could man could do to be locked up. It seems that no matter what he did, he would find himself at liberty. Deputy Carthy is right to ask questions because this is either the most profound and consistent failure in the history of the State or there is something else at play. These are the answers that need to be given. I find it incredible that the Government's response to this, six years after these Houses resolved that there should be a public inquiry, is to say that it should go to a joint Oireachtas committee. This is yet another delay and another diversion.

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

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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The scoping inquiry, as I said at the time, was far too limited because it treated each thing as an individual failure rather than a litany of failures, a collective set of failures that all pointed in a particular direction. I hope that the logical conclusion is not actually the case but it is very hard to escape it.

The Minister said that Judge Haughton was at liberty to come up with any conclusions he saw fit but her Government is at liberty to order a public inquiry on any matter it so chooses. It is now six years since the previous motion was passed and the Government continues to frustrate the will of this House and the Seanad. Indeed, it will resolve again tonight that there should be a public inquiry. We cannot keep kicking it to touch. We cannot keep putting it into new structures and finding new reasons to delay it. At some stage, the Minister and the State are going to have to come to terms with this. It should be now and a public inquiry should happen.

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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I thank my colleague Deputy Carthy for tabling this motion. When I entered the Seanad, it was my colleague Deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn who first told me this absolutely unbelievable story.

It is as unbelievable today as it was then.

I am absolutely astonished that the best the Minister can provide is that she will write to the justice committee to allow it time. Time? How much more time do the O'Farrell family have to go through? The Minister is a mother. I am a mother. My son is almost 23. That is what Shane O'Farrell was. There is something radically wrong here. Things just do not add up. Matt outlined all the reasons why things do not stand up. The "why" to all this just has not been answered. The Minister says it does not meet the threshold. My God, that is insulting to the family, who have come this journey. It is wrong to wave through this motion only for the family of Shane O'Farrell to be again left waiting and waiting, without any real reaction. I urge the Fianna Fáil TDs here, and I accept what Deputy McGuinness says, not to let this happen. If being in government means anything, it means tackling the injustice we see before our eyes here. Shane O'Farrell's memory is worth more than this. It is worth more than a scoping exercise. The Minister has to use the last few months in government to make things happen and to make this happen.

I welcome Lucia, Jim and the rest of the O'Farrell family here and commend them. They should not have to do this. No mother, father, brother or sister should have to do what they have had to do. There will be an independent public inquiry. Why not have it now? Why not have it under the Minister's watch? Why not have it under the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Government? It will happen because Lucia O'Farrell is not going to give up and we are going to stand with her. This is wrong.

8:25 pm

Photo of Réada CroninRéada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein)
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The Shane O'Farrell case has a special place in people's hearts on this island because of the way his family has fought for justice for their son. I welcome the O'Farrell family to the Dáil. I am sorry I could not stay for the whole of the presentation in the audiovisual room today, but I have met Lucia O'Farrell before and I remember a determined woman when I meet one. I recognise that in her.

I also commend Matt Carthy and all the O'Farrell family on their perseverance on this case. We have seen brick walls, cultures of silence, the silence of omerta, transcripts altered, systems used and engaged against the family, and the State using public money, citizens' money, against citizens to duck and dodge and delay and hope the family might give up and go away. They have not, however, and they will not because Shane was their son. I am a parent and, like every parent here, I could not bear to imagine my child or any young person found metres from where they were hit by a serious and a serial road traffic offender who should never have been on the road. This is a man who was habitually before the courts, waltzing in and out of hearings in Dundalk, Cavan, Monaghan, Virginia and Carrickmacross, but who was Teflon when it came to ever being detained.

Shane O'Farrell was a law graduate, which is ironic because he would still be alive if the law had been properly administered and applied. The case is a litany of failures and one of abject neglect and circling of the wagons in every arm of justice involved. It is actually repulsive that there has been no public inquiry to date when the case and the family have been calling out for an inquiry for years. Both Houses of the Oireachtas voted for a public inquiry. It is the Government, and the Government alone, that has been dragging its heels. Why? It is still at it tonight. What is it hiding? Shane O'Farrell had barely made his mark on this earth before he was killed. An independent public inquiry is the very least Shane and his family deserve, not the Minister for Justice prolonging the injustice to them. It really is shocking.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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The events that led to the death of Shane O'Farrell were a series of failures by the authorities. On 2 August 2011, Shane O'Farrell was killed while cycling home when he was struck by a car driven by a man who was out on bail and should have been in jail. I commend the family of Shane O'Farrell on their fight for justice and truth. I have met them several times and have always admired their determined campaign in Shane's name.

There has been an unacceptable reluctance by the Department of Justice to address these failures and conduct a full and proper inquiry into the events that led to Shane's death. The question we have to ask tonight is why. Why the reluctance? A serial offender with theft and drug offences to his name, the man who killed Shane should not have been out on bail. It was only the failings of the PSNI, the Garda and the State prosecution services that allowed him to be so.

In 2018 and 2019, the Dáil and Seanad, as we have heard, both passed motions calling for a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell, demonstrating that a majority of the Oireachtas was not satisfied with the investigations surrounding the multiple failures of the criminal justice process to prevent Shane's death. The Minister for Justice of the day ignored the stated will of the Oireachtas by instead putting in place scoping exercises into the public controversy surrounding Shane's death. To make matters worse, he then dismissed the recommendations of the retired judge he had asked to do that.

The report of the scoping exercise was flawed and its findings, rightly, are disputed. Conducted in private, it did not even attempt to explain the severe, catastrophic failings by the justice system that allowed a man who was stopped by gardaí one hour before Shane O'Farrell was killed to go despite being found in a defective car and in breach of bail conditions. This Government has to establish immediately an independent public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell and the actions of State agencies before and after his death in respect of this case.

As regards the scoping exercise, the GSOC report was not even looked at. It was never even asked for by the judge. Why is that? Does the Minister not think that is odd? I just do not agree with her pushing it off to the justice committee. That is just pawning it off to another group that will look at it and come up with the same conclusion, that we need a public inquiry. I just do not understand why the Minister cannot make that decision herself.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I commend Sinn Féin on bringing this really important issue before us for debate again. Like others, I acknowledge the presence in the Gallery of the O'Farrell family, whose thirst for justice is boundless and whose determination makes it incumbent on all of us to respond in kind.

The justice system of any nation is the bedrock on which citizens rely for their basic liberty and well-being. A well-functioning justice system must give every person in the State a sense of safety and confidence that wrongdoing will be confronted, that those who break the law will be held accountable and that all are equal under the law. No system of public administration is perfect - human frailty means mistakes do happen - but the requirement on us as lawmakers and as the forum to hold public administration to account is to design systems with checks and balances built in to minimise failures and to ensure, where failures do occur, that they are thoroughly and publicly examined and explained. Otherwise the same mistakes and failures will reoccur.

The truly tragic case the House is discussing tonight has been discussed and debated many times here before. The details are very well rehearsed and have already been put before the House. They are extraordinary. It is truly extraordinary and inexplicable how this individual could possibly be at liberty to be in a position to take the life of a young man. The heartbreaking death of Shane O'Farrell, a young man with his whole life ahead of him, is being revisited again by this House, and for good reason. I know that having to hear this debate reawakens the terrible pain and loss for Shane's family, present in the Chamber tonight. In truth, it is a pain that does not need reawakening because it never diminishes.

While there is nothing any of us in this House can do to undo the terrible loss of a young life, we can take measures to answer the legitimate and reasonable questions being posed by Shane's family about all of the circumstances that led to his death and what followed thereafter.

This House has already made its views known. If democracy and resolutions brought to this House and voted through mean anything, this inquiry should have been completed by now. A sworn public inquiry should have been established and concluded. The normal groundwork in advance of the establishment of an independent inquiry is a scoping exercise. That is understandable. A scoping inquiry normally sets out the issues to be addressed and recommends terms of reference to the Government and to this House. As we have heard, a scoping exercise did take place, conducted by Judge Haughton at the request of the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charlie Flanagan. However, Judge Haughton's conclusion that no further investigation or inquiry was warranted has in no way satisfactorily addressed the many fundamental questions posed by Shane's family nor could it.

The undeniable fact that many legitimate questions remain unanswered and that real concerns remain unaddressed, as anybody who was in the audiovisual room will have heard in a clear and undeniable fashion, requires this House and the Government to establish an inquiry. This House cannot take sworn evidence. We cannot demand access to all relevant documentation. We cannot cross-examine relevant persons. That is not our role nor should it be. However, we do have the power, or at least we thought we had the power, to require the Government to establish a forum where such procedures can be properly conducted in an impartial and effective manner. We had expected that a resolution passed by the Members of this House would have meaning and consequence.

The Government cannot say with conviction that all issues have been fully addressed. The work of Judge Haughton was indeed extensive and went well beyond the normal work of a scoping exercise. I have read the report. However, by necessity, it did not have the comprehensive scope and powers of a sworn public inquiry. In some ways, it fell somewhere between a proper scoping exercise and a proper investigation. Unfortunately, it is therefore incomplete and inadequate.

Some matters fester and linger on in our public discourse with a gnawing sense of incompleteness. This case is one of those matters. For as long as those questions are posed and remain unanswered, there will be a gnawing sense of injustice and incompleteness. Eventually, as happened in the case of Stardust, the State will come to accept that, despite what has gone on before, a further body of work must be undertaken to bring these matters to a conclusion and to bring completeness to this tragic and terrible event.

I really was taken aback by the Minister's response to the motion. I have enormous respect for the Minister for Justice but she has come to the House to say that she is not opposing the motion but that, in essence, she will aim to frustrate it. The motion very clearly demands what was already demanded by both Houses of the Oireachtas, a sworn public independent inquiry into all of these matters so that we will know once and for all exactly what happened, who did what and how this man could possibly have been at liberty to cause the carnage and pain that he did. If the Minister's response is to accept the motion, that is, not to oppose it, I have to come to the conclusion that this is because there are Members on the Government side who would not tolerate an opposing motion and who would vote against it. The pretence is that the Minister is accepting a motion requiring a public inquiry but she has no intention of actually conducting one.

Referring the matter to the justice committee is an absolute non-action. The committee has no power to do anything beyond looking at the Haughton report, which we have all already done. If the committee comes to the conclusion that the report is completely and totally inadequate and recommends an inquiry, will the Minister undertake that it will be the final thing requiring her to establish such an inquiry?

There are times when there is a consensus of opinion about an issue and when there are so many fundamental and worrying unresolved matters that they must be properly tested, that people must be properly questioned, that documents must be properly discovered and that all of the evidence must be brought before an inquiry that can come to proper conclusions. An independent public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell will happen. There is no doubt about that. It is in everybody's interests, not least the Minister's, as a fine Minister for Justice, for it to happen now. Otherwise, not only will justice be ill-served, but our confidence in Ireland's justice system will be undermined. I ask the Minister to revisit her first answer before the conclusion of the debate and to give a firm undertaking that she will present terms of reference for an inquiry into this critical matter as soon as possible.

8:35 pm

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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I thank Sinn Féin for bringing forward this really important motion tonight. Like others, I welcome the O'Farrell family and say I am sorry that you must continue to campaign for justice for Shane. I could begin by saying "I know that you were forced to endure a living nightmare which began when your loved ones were so cruelly snatched from you" but I must confess they would not be my words. They would be the words of the Taoiseach when he made a public apology to the Stardust victims. He continued:

We failed you when you needed us the most. From the very beginning, we should have stood with you, but instead we forced you to stand against us.

I call on the Taoiseach to consider those words in the context of this case. I do not doubt that he was sincere when he made that apology in the Dáil but he needs to go further.

It is now more than six years since the Dáil adopted a resolution calling for a public inquiry to be established. Instead, we got a scoping inquiry, which was to be of short duration. In any public inquiry, it is important to narrow the focus and deal with the central issues in order that such an inquiry can get to the heart of the issue and to reduce the time it takes to bring it to a conclusion. It was not unreasonable for the O'Farrell family to assume that this was the intention. Indeed, many of us thought that was the case. Instead of the scoping inquiry taking weeks, it took years. It was set up in 2019 and in 2022 it delivered its report, which was published in 2023. That report ran to 420 pages and the exercise cost €500,000 and yet it did not get to the core issue; why was the man who killed Shane on 2 August 2011 at large when he should have been in jail?

In many ways, the Haughton scoping inquiry made things worse in making findings against Shane. There was a tone of victim blaming throughout the report, which criticised the family who had lost their son and brother. The family had rightly criticised several arms of the State including An Garda Síochána, GSOC and the Department of Justice for glaring failings. The terms of reference for the scoping inquiry were clear. There were two GSOC reports under sections 101 and 97. It was not surprising that these were to be considered under the terms of reference and yet they were not provided to the judge and neither did he seek them.

He was also asked to consider the outcome of the independent review mechanism. The Department of Justice did not give him that and did not waive privilege. There were also sins of omission in the report. I will give two examples. First, the report states that a judicial review taken by two gardaí was successful. In reality, the reason it was successful and the Garda Commissioner agreed to consent was that the two gardaí were not trained on the Garda PULSE system in that respect. Second, a few months before this man killed Shane, he received a custodial sentence for a single heroin offence. He appealed the sentence and was released into the community. Again, anyone reading the report will have been left wondering what happened in this instance. In reality, the appeal was allowed because of deficiencies in the State's case; namely, that the garda wrote down the incorrect number on the statement of evidence bag and incorrect items were recorded in the bag. Essentially, the report should have gone further than a full stop by including an admission of State failures. It is not just the O'Farrell family that needs us to deal with the many failures of the State; it needs to be done in the interests of the State and all of its citizens.

As already mentioned, the Tánaiste, Deputy Micheál Martin, in 2017 expressed that the "entire case reveals shocking malpractice and dysfunction in the criminal justice system at all levels". Just as I have called on the Taoiseach to accede to a public inquiry, I am asking the Tánaiste to do so in order that the malpractice and dysfunction he identified are properly addressed. If we are to have a criminal justice system that works, we all need to see where the failings occurred. We need to ensure that no other family goes to bed at night or wakes up in the morning and the first thing they think of is the life that could have been for their loved one. If the criminal justice system had punished a repeat offender who had broken bail conditions repeatedly, he would have been in custody on the day that Shane was killed.

We are constantly reminded about the separation of powers. As some Members of these Houses have dual experiences as barristers and solicitors, they have the advantage of experiencing both sides. I do not often quote Senator McDowell, who has the experience of serving as Attorney General. In his contribution to the Seanad debate he called for:

... the helicopter view - a view looking down on everything that happened. It needed to ask why this sequence of events took place and if the Irish system [is] robust and proper, a public inquiry which would for once deliver to An Garda Síochána and the courts a clear statement of their obligations to ensure that their suspended sentences actually mean something.

When we hear reports from the courts on the news, as we repeatedly do, we are told about the sentences imposed and the bail conditions. We are told that people have to sign on at the Garda station twice a week or every day. We take it for granted that those conditions are met and that bail is revoked if they are breached, but this case shows it is not correct for us to assume that. How meaningful are such conditions if they are not followed up on? How often does this happen? What has changed in the past decade that will give us any confidence in the system? These conditions are set for the protection of the public. They allow someone who is accused of a serious offence to be free until the court case. Where was the sanction for a man who over a two-year period committed 30 offences while he was on bail? When he reoffended and breached all of the bail conditions, there was no sanction. Was he an exception? If he was, tell us why. Was he an informer? Shane O'Farrell's case needs a public inquiry because of the serious public policy issues it raises around the criminal justice system, including the breaches of bail and the execution of warrants.

The O'Farrells deserve our sympathy, but what they really deserve, and every citizen deserves, is a system that works. We have an obligation to ensure that is the case. I agree with others when they say we need a public inquiry now. The idea of batting this matter off to the justice committee is really offensive. We all know we are in the last days of this Government. If this matter goes to a committee, it will probably be put on the far end of a list in September or October. Would the committee even have time to consider this? When it considers the matter, it comes back with a report and we have another debate here. As we know and as the Minister knows, this idea is nonsense. I agree it is probably a way of making sure to avoid a vote in the House tonight because there are people within Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party who could not, in conscience, vote against this motion.

An independent public inquiry is essential. We can see the emails that went back and forward between the Department of Justice and others because Lucia O'Farrell has given them to us. We can see the dialogue between the Department and Judge Haughton. This would not happen if there was a public inquiry because it would be independent. If a person asked a question on it, he or she would be told that it is independent. When I have asked questions about delays and so on with other inquiries, I have been told that it is independent, that the judge will take whatever length of time the judge will take and that we cannot interfere. This is very different. This is a scoping inquiry; it is not a public inquiry. It needs to be a public inquiry. It needs to be independent.

At some point, the Minister will realise that she picked on the wrong family. I commend the family members on the continued efforts they have put in. This is a young man who had just finished his masters degree. He could have expected at this stage in his life that his career would be well established. He could have married and had a family. Nobody would have known this family. The one thing they can do is insist on justice. We need to insist on justice too. Our criminal justice system has been so exposed with this case that the only thing that can put it right is to look deeply at where those flaws are and put them right.

8:45 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:55 pm

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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I welcome the family of Shane O'Farrell to the Dáil Gallery today. I commend them on the massive campaign they have run over the last number of years in the face of such resistance by the political establishment in this country. To lose a son is a disaster for any parent. It is an excruciating pain for a parent to have to bury a child. It is unimaginable, and indeed most of us here will not even try to imagine what it would be like for us to do exactly the same thing. Even that act of trying to imagine it is such a difficult thing for people to have to do.

That should have been the limit to the pain that family suffered but it was not. Pain and suffering have been heaped on that family over and over again by the tortuous journey they have been forced to take to achieve justice for their son. At 3 p.m. today, Shane O'Farrell's family gave a presentation in the audiovisual room about what happened to their son. At 4 p.m., I brought the family of Noah Donohoe to make a presentation about what happened to their son. These were two children whose lives were lost in preventable situations. Their families were forced to come to Leinster House to plead with TDs for justice for their children. Is that how a functioning democracy and a justice system should work? Must we have a trail of families coming to Leinster House to plead with us for justice for their children? Should our instinct as TDs or parents not be hardwired into ensuring they have justice, rather than the instinct of some people here, which is to push back against every opportunity for justice to be achieved for their families?

It is important to state that for both families, their sons cannot be brought back, and they know that. However, the fact that these relentless campaigns are happening is not just for justice for their sons but to make sure this does not ever happen again to anybody else. This is equally as important a result for the justice campaigns these families are involved in. Mark my words: if there is no justice for these families after what happened their sons, this will happen again. If we live in an accountability-free zone, we will be cursed to wake up on another morning to turn on the radio and to hear that another situation like this has happened. Unless there is a cost for individuals in respect of the actions they take in this regard, those actions will be repeated at some stage in the future by them or others. That is one of the big problems that exists in the administration of our country. It is an accountability-free zone, where nobody has to pay the price for the wrongs they do in these situations. That is allowed to happen by this administration.

It is a great credit to the O'Farrell family that their campaign for justice is not just about justice for their son but also for the reform of the system to make sure this never happens again. Shane was killed either because of a litany of dysfunction by the State or, worse, because his killer was protected by the State. I think the publication of the final report of the scoping exercise was the latest instalment of State-sponsored pain for that family. The fact that Shane was, in that report, stated to be partly to blame for his own death is an horrendous indictment of that report and its authors. I believe that as a result, the report should be withdrawn. The forensic collusion investigator talked about the cyclist wearing dark clothes, etc., and said that "failure to have such lighting is highly negligent behaviour on the part of a cyclist". I ask people to think about that sentence, and think about the damage that sentence does both to the deceased and the family left behind. There is a juxtaposition between the actions of Shane that night and those of Gridziuska in what he did, just as there is a juxtaposition between the actions of Shane and the actions of the State with regard to what it has done. In that scenario, culpability is not confusing whatsoever. Culpability is obviously on Gridziuska, and it is also on the State with regard to what it has done. Any effort to redirect culpability to the deceased is a shocking indictment of the Government and the State as well.

There should be no equivocation about where the blame lies for the death of Shane. That report is a gross insult to the family and it must be withdrawn.

It was not part of the terms of reference of that report to make a finding on the circumstances of Shane's death. Indeed, the family today has shown that the terms of reference were specifically amended by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General to exclude the trial of Zigimantas Gridziuska in this situation. The Minister stated in her speech tonight that the scoping exercise was thoroughly investigated. I think that is a deeply worrying statement for the Minister to make. This report did not request GSOC's underlying statutory report, which formed part of the terms of reference. As a result, given the mistakes made in this report, I see little hope from the Minister's speech of justice being achieved for Shane's situation by this Government.

The Minister went on to say that she would not oppose this motion. That is an empty formula, because she is saying that she will not action the motion but she will not oppose it. You cannot be in two separate places at one time. Agreeing with the motion or not opposing the motion, yet not being willing to fulfil the motion, are bipolar positions. It is a cheap trick, which is not acceptable, given the gravity of the situation the Government is in, as we are talking about. One of the most cynical things I have seen in politics in this House over the last 14 years is politicians putting their arms around campaigners, getting into photographs, smiling, and saying "Yes" to them when actually they mean "No". That happens day in, day out in this location. By not opposing this motion, the Government is saying that it is on the side of the family, but clearly, by referring this to the justice committee and not actioning the motion, the Government is saying it is not on the side of the family. It is trying to inhabit two separate locations at the one time. It is blatantly obvious to anybody who sees it and it is absolutely wrong. Given the gravity of Shane's case, it is important that the Government does not try to speak from both sides of its mouth in this situation.

There was shocking failure after shocking failure when it came to Shane's death. Gridziuska had 40 previous offences, including drugs, theft and speeding offences. He breached bail conditions. He did not serve a prison sentence. He was allowed to break the law with impunity by the justice system in this country. Either on purpose or by accident, he was afforded immunity from justice. Here we are, years after the death, and that immunity is still being upheld by the system. That is a legacy of this Government, if it sees out the rest of its term and allows that impunity to exist.

I spoke about the fact that there is an absolute absence of accountability. I have respect for the Minister. I am one of her biggest critics but there is nothing personal in that. I believe there are significant problems with the justice system in this country. I have raised the fact that sentencing has become more lenient in recent years. The Minister is taking criminals out of the prison system to make space for other criminals because of capacity issues. The Minister has set that out to me in black and white in response to parliamentary questions. If you look at what is happening on the roads at the moment, there has been a collapse in the number of roads gardaí. We have about 36% fewer roads gardaí now than we had. Behaviour is changing on the roads because there is no enforcement of the laws and no consequences. People are changing their behaviours on the roads and as a result, people are getting killed in higher numbers on our roads.

Some 32,700 drivers were disqualified between 2021 and 2023. A third of the disqualified drivers in this country did not even have a licence in this country. Of the 21,000 who had a licence when they received a driving ban, only 5,000 actually surrendered their driver's licence as required by law. It is an incredible situation. I know of a person who is in court with two active driver disqualifications while being disqualified at the same time. If there is no accountability, there is no change and we are cursed to waking up morning after morning, seeing this situation happen over and over again.

9:05 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I thank Sinn Féin for tabling this motion. I welcome Lucia, her husband, their daughter, family and others. I commend her from the bottom of my heart on her tenacity, energy, efficiency and sterling, detailed forensic work in this case. It must be unbearable for her to have lost her wonderful son. He was killed, or murdered as I said before, so callously. She has had to do this work when the State has failed.

I see the Minister's response to the motion tonight. Not only the Minister, Deputy McEntee, but former Ministers for Justice, including the Taoiseach, Deputy Harris; Deputy Charles Flanagan; and Deputy Heather Humphreys, whose constituency this happened in, should all hang their heads in shame for the way they have treated this tragedy. It is the system that they operate.

For the first time ever in this House tonight, I went around the back and walked around the statues of the great men of 1916, including Thomas Clarke, Pádraig Pearse, Thomas Kent, Thomas MacDonagh, you name them. They are all there underneath where the O'Farrell family is sitting. The way the Minister and the Government have cover-up after cover-up is a disservice to those people and the democracy they fought for. With no disrespect to the family here, I will read out some of the cover-ups: the killing of young Brian Rossiter in the Garda station in Clonmel, the murder of Fr. Niall Molloy at a wedding in County Offaly, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and the Omagh bombing, where there was despicable complicity from An Garda Síochána. I know that. I met the man who dropped that bomb. There was the Whiddy Island tragedy all those years ago and the Stardust, though finally they might get some chink of light. We all remember the Dowra affair, when a man was apprehended for giving evidence on the Seán Doherty issue. John O'Brien and Pat Esmonde were two young men who were unceremoniously murdered off Helvick Head. There was cover-up after cover-up and no proper Garda investigation.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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Go easy on your-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Those are only the ones that I am dealing with myself. Other Deputies have mentioned many others that are going on. I salute all the Deputies who have spoken here tonight. It behoves us as elected Members of this Dáil to live up to our Constitution and the freedoms that were fought for by those gallant men, or else we should pack up and go home, and let some dictator take it over. The Minister is covering the system. I raised last week the situation of Strokestown, where a false, illegal warrant was used in the High Court. That is going on day in, day out with repossession cases for families, with the Land Registry not being up to date and illegal warrants. The Minister for Justice, other Ministers for Justice and the Government are happy to preside over that. I salute Deputy McGuinness for coming here tonight. He broke ranks. He would not get time from his own party. He got some of the Minister's time by accident and was able to speak. I have a dossier from uachtarán Fhianna Fáil with 13 letters that he has written to the family. I see the hollowness and shallowness of it. He is in government now as Tánaiste and was there as Taoiseach. He will not do anything about it. I am not surprised because people all over the country have experienced this for decades. I think of the situation in County Limerick with a family who were literally poisoned by a factory and met Micheál Martin and Tony Holohan 35 years ago. They were dismissed as cannon fodder.

Holding on to the reins of power is more important to the Minister. To hell with justice and to hell with respect for ordinary people. Is it any wonder that many will not come out and vote? They have lost interest in voting and lost faith in the system. The Minister will not support the gardaí. We have never had fewer gardaí. To think that a man with so many crimes could be at large. The whole system had fabrications and failings. He could be stopped at a checkpoint and be put in charge of the car by a member of An Garda Síochána. He had to be an insider and a Garda informer; otherwise, he could not get away with what he did. It is a sad indictment of our country that a person like him could still be at large. We do not know where he is. He could be down the street here on Grafton Street tonight, for all we know. Many other families are going through that kind of thing up and down the country. The Minister is happy to preside over that as her legacy.

I am not allowing this charade tonight with the Minister accepting the motion and putting it back in for more discussion, debate, delay, subterfuge and denial until she is out of office. I will be calling a vote on this motion on behalf of my colleagues tonight.

We will see where her members are then.

9:15 pm

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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Before I call Deputy Danny Healy-Rae, it is important-----

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Stop the clock so.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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-----that if people make accusations of wrongdoing or lawbreaking, they understand that the people they make them against are not here to defend themselves. Be careful what you say.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Neither is Shane O'Farrell. He cannot be here. Where is his voice?

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I am glad to get the opportunity to say a few words in support of Sinn Féin's motion. We thank Sinn Féin for highlighting this issue again this evening, as it has been numerous times. I sympathise and empathise with the extended O'Farrell family. We wish them well in the future. We are very sorry about what has happened. The system here has let all of them down and has let the country down. I am amazed that this man from Lithuania committed 12 offences in his home country before he came here. I have been raising this for 12 months or maybe more. I was vilified by the Labour Party and different people for raising that people coming here from wherever in the world should and have to be Garda-vetted or vetted properly. I know it is not happening. This man came here with 12 offences and, at the same time, local people who got a summons and were waiting to go to court would not have been able to go abroad. They would not get out of the country. There is one law for people coming in and a different law for our own people. Will the Minister address that now?

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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You are out of order in this case.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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You are out of order to interrupt me. I know a lot about Garda vetting. If I want to get a bus driver to drive school children, he has to be Garda vetted for that job. If Teddy McCarthy in Sneem wants him to drive his bus in the same space of time, he has to be Garda vetted again to get a job with Teddy McCarthy. If he wants to do charity work with children, he has to be Garda vetted again. Why not Garda vet the people coming here and ensure they start off on a level footing with the people here? That is what I ask the Minister for Justice to do.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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It is not relevant.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I am not taking dictation from you. I represent the people of Kerry and Ireland and they are asking why people coming in here are not being vetted. You are being unfair to our people because there are accidents and all kinds of assaults and there is no accountability. They are not being checked out coming in here. That is not fair. Do not shake your head. They do not even have a passport coming here and the Government gives them a new PPS number and it does not know who it is giving it to.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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That is twice; this is not relevant to the debate.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is relevant because more of it is happening. I am telling you it is happening. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If our people are Garda vetted for everything, people coming in here have to be Garda vetted as well.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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Only one person to speak at a time. When people get their chance to speak, they can make a retort to what has been said.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I already spoke but the Deputy's remarks are out of order.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Who is the Chair?

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Who are you to say I am out of order? Who made God out of you? You do not even believe in God.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Please, the family are in the Gallery.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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You think you are God yourself. That is the trouble. You think you are infallible.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I warmly welcome the family of the late Shane O'Farrell. I am glad they are here but I am very sorry that they are here. They should not have to be here tonight. They should not have had to be here today in the AV room, where they gave an excellent presentation. I was sorry I had to leave but I read the documents I received. It reminded me of years ago when we were here; it is like we are back where we started in that we have not progressed. All they have is unfulfilled promises.

I warmly thank Sinn Féin for tabling this motion before the Dáil this evening. I rightly recognise its work. Deputy Mattie McGrath has not a couple of sheets of paper but literally a file on the late Shane O'Farrell because of the work he has done over the time. This case highlights the urgent need for reform in the Irish justice system. It reveals shocking malpractice and dysfunction at all levels. The case demonstrates the need for stricter enforcement of bail laws, better monitoring of individuals on bail and for courts to be informed of relevant previous convictions and reoffending. It is hurtful. Every one of us has only one life. When we bring children into the world, the one aim every parent has in their hearts and souls is to go into the ground before their children. No matter what cost, that is what every parent would want. That is what the O'Farrell family would have hoped they would have achieved. When I heard them speaking today, knowing the effort they put in throughout all those years, they would give anything to have that time back.

If justice had been served and been seen to be served, we would not be having this debate tonight. Sinn Féin would not have to do what it has done and the Minister would not have to be here. Most important, the O'Farrell family would not have to be in the Public Gallery. Their son would be alive if the justice system had worked properly. When it did not work properly, surely they should have got the justice they deserved. Justice delayed is justice denied, but what about when you do not get it at all? It is a horrible feeling. I can only imagine what it is like in the dawn of the morning when they wake up and think first of their loss and second of what has happened politically since.

Deputy McGrath showed me letters signed by politicians giving the family promises. I hope they do not mind; he allowed me to look at them. They were addressed to Lucia. She received them in good faith. They were not just political promises; they were written down by individuals but were not honoured. That is an awful thing to do. I thank the Cathaoirleach Gníomhach for his indulgence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9:25 pm

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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I again express my condolences and support to the O'Farrell family in their fight for the State to recognise and properly address the significance of the case. It is extremely cruel that the O'Farrell family has been forced to continue this fight to get the answers they need. I cannot imagine the scale of grief they have suffered over the past 13 years. It is unacceptable that they have been forced through this and that, despite the matter being raised many times in this House, we have yet to receive the answers they are so desperately looking for. All they are asking for is answers, yet it seems they are posing questions that are too big, questions the State is not able or willing to answer.

The report of the scoping exercise into the death of Shane O'Farrell was published a year ago but many serious issues remain unaddressed. Although lengthy, it is clear the report is incomplete. The report is incredibly disappointing for those who waited so long to see it published. It is clear there are some very big unexplained holes in it. Throughout the report, State bodies are continuously excused from any accountability, and the scoping exercise failed to uncover thorough or factual answers to vital questions relating to Shane's death. The crux of the situation is that if the criminal justice system had worked as it should, Mr. Gridziuska would have been in custody on the day he killed Shane O'Farrell. This is an impossible reality to live with and an incredible injustice. How can Shane's family ever move on without knowing why this happened and making sure it will never happen again?

When a sentence is imposed by the courts, we understandably expect the sentence will be served. It is unsettling to discover this is not always the case. It is devastating to realise that the tragic death of a young man just starting out in life could have been avoided. There is no doubt that An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and the Department of Justice have many questions to answer. There has been a litany of failures on so many levels by so many bodies that this must be investigated. It is for this reason that there must be a full public inquiry into this case. It is disingenuous of the Minister in her response to refer the matter to the justice committee. I am a member of the justice committee and I know the justice committee has shut down debate at every point and at every stage on other issues - not on this issue - in the four years for which I have been a member of it. Why would the committee be any different now, in the jaws of an election? It is only to be seen to be doing something and it would ensure there will not be answers for the O'Farrell family, and that would be a disgrace.

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent)
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For more than eight years, the constituent whose name was best known in both my offices, in Brussels and in Sligo, was Lucia O'Farrell. I will be honest. At times I wondered how Lucia O'Farrell could keep going, but every time she contacted me I knew why. What astonished me was that each time she contacted my office the list of errors, mistakes, omissions, misjudgments, gaps in information, confusion and chaos in this case grew and grew, a bit like Pinocchio's nose. I do not have the time to go through the shocking discrepancies in this case, the abject failure of the justice system at all levels and the State circling the wagons. It is there for anybody who wants to see it.

I am further shocked, if that is possible, that a call from this House and the Seanad back in 2018 for a public inquiry was ignored and is still being ignored. Tonight the Minister has an opportunity to put that right. She is not opposing the motion. Is that because she is afraid the Government would lose the vote? I heard some of the Minister's Fianna Fáil colleagues speak here tonight. The Minister could have tabled a countermotion saying she would refer this to the justice committee, which is what she intends to do. Why did the Minister not have the courage to put down her countermotion and see whether the House would support it or the motion from Sinn Féin calling for a public inquiry? I believe that a public inquiry would have been supported by the majority of people in this House. The Minister does not owe a public inquiry just to the memory of Shane O'Farrell and to his family, she owes it to the people of Ireland.

Photo of Violet-Anne WynneViolet-Anne Wynne (Clare, Independent)
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I thank Deputy Carthy for this important motion and for the opportunity to add my name. I commend the O'Farrell family for their steadfast determination, their tenacity and their outright dignity. They are an inspiration to us all and I have no doubt that they will keep going completely undeterred and unwavering until they get what Shane deserves, which is to rest in full peace with his dignity restored. I wanted that to be said here.

I listened to what the Minister had to say and I am perplexed. The scoping exercise apparently included all relevant material, but that was not the case and that sentiment in itself sounds contradictory to me. The statement from the O'Farrell family on the report of the scoping inquiry states, "Judge Haughton was not provided with, nor did he request the underlying GSOC statutory reports which form part of the terms of reference and appear essential to the exercise."

The Minister has written to the justice committee to allow time to consider this but the Minister and I both know the committee would need only two minutes to consider the details the O'Farrell family have uncovered. Let us get off the fence. I implore the Minister to stand with truth and justice. I attended today's briefing with the O'Farrell family and listened attentively to what they had to say. Again, I have to ask, "Why?" It is because those in positions of power still have not done the right thing. This family have been reeling in pain and with the lack of justice that has been demonstrated on so many levels that it is absolutely astounding. It is even more astounding that they have not been granted a full independent public inquiry when the reality is that Shane and his family were and have been failed time and again. It is absolutely heartbreaking and unacceptable.

I listened today as Lucia and Hannah outlined how many procedures and protocols were not followed, ignored or overlooked in respect of bail, previous convictions, coroners' requests, the effectiveness of GSOC and transparency around the use of informers by members of An Garda Síochána. It shows that glaring legal issues remain.

One could easily make the mistake that it is the content of the plot of a horror movie. It is really sinister stuff. Unfortunately, it is the very genuine reality for the O'Farrell family, which each and every one of them will forever hold dear.

A particular question to come from all the hard work the O'Farrell family has done is if the gardaí are trained in how to use the PULSE system. I refer to negligence, tardiness and, if I can say this, the pure Irishness of denying, delaying and withholding. As I said, I implore the Minister to do the right thing and commit to holding a full independent public inquiry. Go raibh maith agat.

9:35 pm

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Deputies for their contributions this evening. Like them, I express my deepest sympathies to the O'Farrell family on the loss of Shane. As the Minister has already said, the Government will not be opposing this motion. To assist the Government in considering the Haughton report, the Minister is going to write to the Joint Committee on Justice to ask it to look at its recommendations and conclusions. I thank Judge Haughton, who carried out a very thorough review of all relevant material and produced a detailed final report that runs to some 416 pages. Having fully engaged with each and every issue raised by or on behalf of the family, the judge concludes that no further investigation or inquiry is warranted above and beyond those already carried out. Many important recommendations were made in the report concerning bail and suspended sentences legislation, amendments to the Road Traffic Acts and in relation to notices of appeal as administered by the Courts Service. I confirm that these are being implemented.

The O'Farrell family has also raised the issue of the whereabouts of the person driving the car that killed Shane. Inquiries have been made with An Garda Síochána and I am informed that there is no evidence that person has entered the State since the expiry of the ten-year exclusion order in 2023. The force will continue to keep this matter under review.

Finally, I assure colleagues that I am assured that at all times the Minister, Deputy McEntee, has acted on the advice of the Attorney General and has acted in good faith.

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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I thank Deputy Carthy. I welcome the O'Farrell family here. I wish it were under other circumstances.

It is almost 13 years since Shane O'Farrell's family was given the worst news any family could face - that Shane was not coming home. He had been the victim of a hit-and-run, struck down while cycling home by a car driven by Zigimantas Gridziuska, who immediately left the scene of the accident before handing himself into gardaí the following day. He was a known criminal. As if losing Shane was not enough, his family had to discover that Gridziuska should never have been at liberty to drive a car, but he was. There were successive Garda failures to prosecute properly or even bring to the attention of the courts multiple offences committed by Gridziuska in the months before he struck and killed Shane on that faithful August day. Gardaí failed to put evidence before the courts, arrest warrants were not executed and bail orders were blatantly breached, all for nothing to be done because of abject failures by gardaí and the courts system. This allowed Gridziuska his freedom ultimately to take Shane's life.

Shane's family has never rested in their struggle for answers. Some 13 years on and there has still been no justice for them. Where is the inquiry promised by the Fianna Fáil motion in 2018? Six years later, and nearly five years into this current Government, there has still been no action from Fianna Fáil. There have only been delays, deflections and denials. Was that motion that this House passed just for show or is Fianna Fáil going to stand by it?

Was Mr. Gridziuska an informer for the Garda? If he was, people need to be told. The next thing is that the only action we can have here is an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Shane's death and the abject failures and the Courts Service. I was here this night last week. There was the very same thing with the Minister and the Garda, what is going on and the lack of security for people. Here we are tonight with the same thing about gardaí. What is the Government so afraid of that it is continuing to object to and frustrate all efforts to set up this inquiry? Why has Fianna Fáil made no effort to follow through with its 2018 motion, despite having had ample opportunities to do so while in government for almost five years now? Why is there this delay? Shane's family deserve this inquiry. I urge all in this House, and especially in Fianna Fáil, to support this motion. I take on board that the Minister said she was not going to oppose this motion but leaving this case on a shelf for another five years is not going to work either. The Minister's response is shameful. Shame on her.

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome Lucia and the O'Farrell family. This is not the first time they have been here. They have been here on many, many occasions. While I was a spokesperson on justice, I dealt with them on many occasions. I did so as well with other families and other situations that have a similar thread running through them. This thread is that in this State when something inappropriate happens, there is a cover-up and a rush to that cover-up. When there is then an opportunity to try to deal with that cover-up, the cover-up is covered up and then covered up again and again. It becomes a layer of deceit and deception. This is what has continued to happen in so many of these cases.

It is and has been my view for some considerable time that the reason for this is there is something very difficult at the core of this situation the State does not want to face. It is that we have an element within our system, certainly within An Garda Síochána, as well as in other aspects of our system, that does not function properly and sometimes functions outside what the law is. This is the problem we have. I have come to a conclusion in this regard. There is an agency within An Garda Síochána, and I am sure the Minister knows about it, although very few people would, called the covert human intelligence source, CHIS, section. This is a section of An Garda Síochána that deals with people prepared to give information. It is set out in legislation and in the rules and regulations as to how this is supposed to happen. One of the things supposed to happen is that when a person is giving information to An Garda Síochána, while they may have been a criminal in the past, they are supposed to abide by the law during that time. During the time when they abide by the law, if they do, they can continue to give information. If they step out of that context, though, they are not supposed to. My understanding from people who have worked near and as a part of this system is that this happens very seldom at all. In fact, in most cases these people continue to go on and act in criminal behaviour.

Now, CHIS is supposed to be regulated and looked after. One of the things said about it is that "The operation of the CHIS system shall be subject to internal oversight by senior Garda management and external oversight by an Independent Oversight Authority appointed by and reporting to the Minister for Justice". I think this is the core of our problem here. The Minister for Justice, her office and her Department do not want to take responsibility for what happened in this case and in other similar cases. We need to get to the core of this matter and deal with it. Once and for all, this State needs to own up that on many, many occasions there have been people who have acted outside the law, that in this case brought about this tragedy for this family, and there has been no accountability because the State has allowed it to happen. This is the core of what we are dealing with here.

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I thank all those Members who have contributed to the debate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9:45 pm

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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Is the motion agreed to?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Not agreed.

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Not agreed.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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On what basis is it not being agreed to?

Photo of Matt CarthyMatt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The basis does not matter.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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On the basis of the total charade on the part of the Government. It does this every week here. Because these issues are so serious, sinister and grievously wrong, I am demanding a vote.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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Will the Deputies who are in favour say "Tá"?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Tá.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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Will those against say "Níl"?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Níl.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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So, the Deputy is for it and against it.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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It is always a charade, so we might as well be.

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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God.

Deputies:

Vótáil.

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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The vote on this motion will be deferred until tomorrow evening.