Written answers

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Department of Justice and Equality

Public Inquiries

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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89. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if he will publish the amended terms of reference of the scoping exercise into the circumstances leading to the death of a person (details supplied) and related matters submitted by a person to his Department earlier in 2019. [45817/19]

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois, Fine Gael)
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The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have previously been addressed by me in both the Dáil and the Seanad and I have met with the O'Farrell family.

As the Deputy will be aware, following the Dáil motion calling for a public inquiry last year, I sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to proceed, given the fact that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was still investigating certain matters in relation to the case. Following the conclusion of the GSOC investigation, I appointed retired District Court Judge Gerard Haughton to conduct a scoping exercise into the circumstances leading to Shane's tragic death.

I am grateful to Judge Haughton for agreeing to undertake this sensitive and important work.

The terms of reference of the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton have been finalised and will be published on my Department's website shortly. I can confirm that these Terms of Reference have already been shared with the O'Farrell family.

While the terms of reference for the scoping exercise are focused, they allow for review of the issues intended. I can assure the Deputy that there is no intention on my part to in any way limit the scoping exercise.

Judge Haughton has been asked to make an initial report by mid-November. I expect that interim report will set out the expected time-frame for completion of the scoping exercise that he has been charged with.

Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. Finally, should he consider it necessary to recommend an inquiry, of whatever type, I have asked Judge Haughton to provide me with draft terms of reference for that process.

In establishing the scoping exercise and in determining its terms of reference, I was guided by legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General. While the most recent advice available to my Department recommended focused and specific terms of reference to take account of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shatter v Guerin case, it is important to say that there is no impediment on Judge Haughton to make any recommendation he sees fit in relation to any future inquiry.

While I regret that this process has taken some time, the Deputy will appreciate the importance of ensuring that the scoping exercise was framed and conducted in accordance with the law.

I urge all those concerned to engage fully with Judge Haughton and to input to his important work.


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