DEATH OF SHANE O’FARRELL
Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Oral answers (Question to Taoiseach)
With reference to the ministerial and Government decision-making on policing and justice, I wish to refer to the need to establish a public inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell at Carrickmacross. The person responsible for the death of Shane had a litany of convictions, in courts North and South, for serious offences. It was an appalling failure of the justice system that this convicted person was free and driving a car, causing Shane’s death in a hit-and-run accident. It is appalling that such a convicted person was not in prison. I listened on a number of occasions to Lucia O’Farrell outline in detail and with great clarity the dysfunctionality of so many elements of the criminal justice system that led to her son’s tragic death. The O’Farrell family has campaigned with great dignity and fortitude in seeking justice. Justice needs to be done. The scoping exercise was established by a previous Minister for Justice and Equality a considerable length of time ago. We need this public inquiry process to be advanced without further delay. The O’Farrell family has been failed by this State for far too long.
Deputies Brendan Smith and O’Reilly raised the issue of the death of Shane O’Farrell and the desire of Lucia O’Farrell and her family to get justice in respect of the tragic loss of their son. Deputy Brendan Smith has been a long-term advocate for the family. As the Deputies know, a highly respected retired judge, Judge Gerard Haughton, was appointed to conduct a scoping exercise into the tragic circumstances surrounding Shane’s death. The purpose of that exercise was to advise on whether a further investigation or inquiry should be carried out and the manner and form of such an investigation or inquiry and its terms of reference if he was of the view that there should be one, although I acknowledge the Dáil has committed to one. Judge Haughton furnished an interim report in November 2019. He stated at that stage that he would not restrict or limit Shane’s family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wished to furnish through any scoping exercise. The judge is independent in conducting this scoping exercise. I cannot comment on it or on any aspect of the judge’s work but I fully understand the desire of Members, including Deputies Brendan Smith, O’Reilly, McGuinness and others who have consistently raised this, to bring the scoping inquiry to a conclusion and move forward.
I genuinely regret that the process has taken significantly longer than any of us would have liked. I am also aware that a judge is doing all he can to ensure the concerns the family have raised with him during the process are followed through on to the greatest extent possible. I understand that Judge Haughton has been in contact with the O’Farrell family throughout his scoping exercise. Judge Haughton has recently written to the Department of Justice on the week beginning 5 July indicating that there are some minor matters to be addressed on one aspect of the inquiry. Once those matters have been addressed, he intends to seek comments and corrections on that aspect of the draft report from interested parties, including the O’Farrell family. Following receipt of responses from these parties, Judge Haughton will be in a position to finalise his report.
The Department of Justice will continue to provide all necessary assistance to Judge Haughton. The Minister for Justice looks forward to receiving his final report and updating the House on the matter.