I am privileged to have the honour of contributing on this matter. I thank and welcome Lucia, her husband and her daughters to the House. She has been here many times. I salute the tenacity and endurance shown by her and her family in trying to get justice, not only for her son, Shane, but also for many other victims of heinous crimes.
People describe the incident in 2011 as an accident. I do not - I call it outright and wanton slaughter. That individual and his comrades were careering around in an uninsured and untaxed car without an NCT. Worse, gardaí had stopped them that night. I am not here to point the finger of blame at any individual garda and I do not know whether the gardaí did not bother to check or did not have the necessary equipment to find out. I have known of people with no tax whose cars were seized. That was proper order, but not having insurance is much worse.
The driver had a string of convictions. Following this, there was a calamity, although I will not say "of errors". There seems to have been a cover-up, with a lack of proper investigation and a lack of proper judicial process.
That is going on. I said to this woman "God bless you that you are so brave and so strong to expose that not only for your own son and family but for countless other families that are going through this throughout the State." That is going on. There is something rotten in the Department of Justice and Equality. One would want to believe there is ineptitude but there is not. It is systemic. I can give case after case. I had one case myself which was appalling. No one shakes an eyelid. We listened to the Garda Síochána at the conference recently and to an American expert. I happened to hear him on the radio. He gave testimony about the lack of basic equipment that An Garda Síochána has to defend themselves, not to mention to defend us. I salute every man and woman there. The vast majority, 99%, are doing their best in the face of adversity but there is no management structure. There is mismanagement at an appalling rate right up the line, a lack of respect and a lack of accountability. The word accountability is not in this House. No one is held accountable for anything.
The individual who was driving the car had multiple previous convictions in the North and South. The Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, as Deputy McGuinness told the House, had informed the Garda Síochána in a letter. The Garda would have us believe it had no information. That is what people get every day and night that they go into a Garda station. Gardaí are overworked and the place is understaffed. I raised my own area in Clonmel with the Minister. It is pathetic that a town of that size has so few gardaí. People go to the counter and meet a recruit who does his or her best but there is no follow-up or follow-through anywhere in the country. Serious crimes are not properly investigated because the gardaí do not have the resources or wherewithal and the Department of Justice and Equality will not deal with it. It beggars belief that this could continue to carry on with multiple families, such as Lucia and the O'Farrell family, who have been waiting since 2011. I have met her a number of times here. I salute her bravery and her strength of character to follow it up because it has to be changed. What will make it change? We talk about changing the HSE. I do not know if Ministers will not take responsibility and have it changed, such as free legal aid, which we raise every day. I am sure that individual in the court probably got free legal aid. I do not know the facts but he probably did. There were multiple charges involving bail. It is a farce. We raise it every day. Why are those individuals not tagged, with many crimes such as that? There is huge resistance to protecting the people, the ordinary citizens who pay their taxes and work. This man had gone to college and got his qualification. His family helped him. He loved to cycle. He went off to cycle. Who would have known that he would be mowed down by a vehicle like that? It is like a runaway train coming at a person. It dragged him a long way along the road. It is slaughter, not an accident. It is murder, if nothing else. Up and down the country, there are cases like this.
I hope that Lucia and her family will not mind if I bring in another case because I raised it here yesterday. I have raised it countless times. It is the case of two young men, the year before, on 23 May 2010. It was a beautiful sunny day like today. They were out fishing off Helvick Head and their boat was overturned by a pleasure craft and the two drowned. Mr. John O'Brien left three young kids and Mr. Pat Esmonde left one, and grieving families. If John O'Brien's sister, Anne-Marie, had not continued the battle to try to get justice and answers, there would have been no investigation. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was a joke. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, investigated it too. The gardaí never made a public appeal for witnesses. When I went to Dungarvan Garda station after months of trying to get a meeting with the superintendent, we were treated with contempt, disrespect and insulted. The investigation was closed. Anne-Marie went out two years later and put up posters in the town of Dungarvan. It is a lovely scenic town. Witnesses came forward who saw untoward activity on the sea that day. They spent seven months waiting for the gardaí to take a statement. There is a Garda review ongoing and we are told that she is ringing every week. It was to be finished last September, October, November, December, January, February, March or May. This morning, she was told there would be a meeting on 18 June. It is disgraceful. There is no justice. Two young men lost their lives and left their families behind. I believe a major cover-up is going on in Dungarvan Garda station relating to that incident. Two young men went to their deaths. The inquest was told they were swimming in the water and one of them could not even swim. These are the lies we are told, the cover-up. There was no investigation. I raised the Marine Casualty Investigation Board with the Minister, Deputy Ross. He came to meet Anne-Marie in her house. The board has no powers to go to and investigate the scene. It does in the UK. It takes control of the investigation if it happens on water and the police are in second place. They are on land. There was no investigation. There was no public appeal. It is shameful. I hate saying this but it would be better investigated if a farmer lost some animals. It is disgraceful.
The gardaí at senior level have so much to answer for but many of their interests are in going up the ladder, not serving the people or looking after their troops on the ground. We saw last week in the Garda Representative Association that they have no proper equipment to do anything. They cannot get stab vests, Tasers, spray-guns or anything else to protect themselves in the face of adversity. We talk about sending out recruits. I salute all the recruits that want to join and go in to serve the noble cause of a country, and the many before them. Senior management is such as we see in the tribunal, in the McCabe case. Senior management seem to save the system, preserve face and allow issues such as Shane O'Farrell's, those two gentlemen near Helvick Head and countless others, to happen. Families have to try to seek justice and spend their own time and money, up against the might of the State. The first thing that is wheeled out is legal people against them.
I appeal to the Minister to try to make some inroad into the Department of Justice and Equality, to have some reforms there, and have some kind of accountability. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board is not the Minister's but it is another quango that needs to be reformed and changed. GSOC recommended, in the case of Dungarvan, that in future, if there is any loss at sea, a public appeal has to be made. That is all. GSOC is toothless, useless and fruitless. I was there myself with a complaint. It was a waste of time. It is just covering the system too. We need a body with teeth and powers. We have quango after quango, but they are serving nothing, just themselves much of the time, and cost taxpayers a fortune, with no justice for ordinary citizens. They need to be held accountable, including GSOC and many other agencies. They are not fit for purpose. We need to have outside, independent investigators and accountability. The case in Monaghan is an appalling vista, as are the cases in Dungarvan and many others. The case near Helvick Head is disgusting and the disrespect that their families got from the superintendent there is disgusting. They are out of control and in an area of their own. We will have no investigation.
Two years later, as I said, the sister put up posters herself and got four or five people to come forward. She gave the names in to the Garda Síochána. It is work that the Garda should be doing. It took the Garda seven months to take a statement. One of the people had died. In a film of a comedy of errors, one could laugh at it, but it is serious. Human life was lost, including Shane O'Farrell, these two gentlemen and many others. There is no accountability or justice, or even half an effort of an investigation. It was just shut down and covered up because big people owned this big boat, had contacts and money and power. It stinks to high heaven. It stinks that the Minister's predecessor presided over this lack of investigation, accountability and a cabal running the Garda station in Dungarvan. It is a cabal, not the ordinary people on the ground, doing their best. The power got to their heads. They are unaccountable. They were left unaccountable by the Minister and previous Ministers. There is a merry-go-round in the courts, with bail and previous convictions involved. It is a big industry for barristers. The free legal aid is disgusting.