Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Death of Shane O'Farrell: Motion
Those are very welcome words and I commend the Minister on accepting the motion, as I understand he will. We all await his comments.
We need clarification about the timeframe for the implementation of the motion and precisely how it is proposed to go about the establishment of the public inquiry called for. The details of the case are well known. We had a debate on the issue eight months ago in this House. I spoke at length, as did others, and set out the details which are also set out in the motion. It is worth noting the litany of failings following the tragic death in August 2011. There were failings of communication within and between the different courts and justice agencies in this jurisdiction, as well as failings on a cross-Border basis between the courts and judicial authorities in the North and the South of the island. Those failings of communication need to be investigated to ensure that we do not see any other families being failed by the system in the way the O'Farrell family have been.
The motion that so many of us support not only calls for the immediate establishment of a public inquiry into Shane O'Farrell's death, but also calls on the Government to make sure that adequate information systems exist within the Courts Service to enable courts to immediately access information on sentences imposed or orders made on persons previously convicted of offences. That is an important point to highlight. We all want to ensure that no other family will suffer in this way and that mechanisms are put in place to ensure there is a sufficient exchange of information between courts and policing agencies, both in this jurisdiction and between this jurisdiction and the North, to ensure courts are fully seised of all circumstances when a case comes before them, whereas in this case, they should have been aware of much more information that they were not aware of.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to the motion. When he spoke in response to our previous debate eight months ago, he said he would reflect on what we said and the fact that the Dáil voted on 14 June 2018 in support of a public inquiry. An inquiry is long overdue. My party leader, Deputy Howlin, called some years ago for the initiation of a scoping inquiry into Shane O'Farrell's death. I know that was recently announced, under District Court judge Gerard Haughton, but if a scoping inquiry had been established years ago, we would have seen a public inquiry set up in a much more timely fashion. I am taken by an article by Michael Clifford published on 7 February in which he clearly set out the grounds for bypassing the scoping exercise and ensuring the holding of a commission of investigation into this issue. He also set out the compelling body of evidence which points towards repeated and serious failures in the criminal justice system, leading to a young man's tragic death. I urge colleagues to support the motion.