The next item is statements on matters related to a fatal road traffic collision causing the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell in 2011. I call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to make his opening contribution.
Death of Shane O'Farrell: Statements
I want to begin by again offering my condolences and profound sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. O’Farrell and Shane's sisters and extended family and friends. I cannot imagine the scale of their grief and I know that no words of mine will bring Shane O'Farrell back to his family. Shane O'Farrell's death was a tragedy. I know, as many of us do, that his loss has had a catastrophic impact on his family. I welcome Mrs. O'Farrell to the Public Gallery.
In 2011, Shane O'Farrell was just 23 years of age when he was killed when cycling in County Monaghan. He was taken from his family at a time when he held so much promise for the life he might have lived. In the course of the past seven years, I have met members of his family and I am familiar with their tireless quest to understand the circumstances which led to the death of Shane O'Farrell. Let me state categorically here in the Seanad that there are a number of matters surrounding the circumstances of the death of Shane O’Farrell, which are of concern. The fact is that the person who was responsible for the fatal accident had multiple previous convictions, including for theft, drugs and road traffic offences, for some of which he had received suspended prison sentences. It is also the case that, at the time of the accident, he was on bail related to a number of charges.
Shane's mother, Lucia O'Farrell, has asked for a public inquiry. Over the years since the death of Shane O'Farrell, my predecessors have attempted to address the concerns of his family. They have availed themselves of the mechanisms at their disposal to determine what actions they might take.
In 2014, my predecessor, former Minister, Alan Shatter, referred the matter to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Members of the House will be aware that GSOC has a statutory responsibility to deal with complaints concerning the conduct of members of the Garda Síochána. At the time of the Minister’s referral, GSOC was already investigating the case on foot of a complaint by the O’Farrell family and it merged the two complaints into one. The following month in May 2014, the then Minister, Alan Shatter, referred the case to the independent review mechanism. The independent review mechanism was established to provide for independent reviews of certain allegations of Garda misconduct or inadequacies in the investigation of certain allegations with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner further action may be required in the case.
For clarity, the independent review mechanism was not established to act as a commission of inquiry or investigation nor was it designed to make findings. Its purpose was to examine allegations to see whether further action was needed by the Minister and what that action might be. Under the IRM, the allegations made by the O’Farrell family concerning the circumstances of Shane O'Farrell’s death and subsequent events were examined. Having considered this case, the recommendation made by the IRM was that no further ministerial action should be taken in this case. Counsel for the IRM pointed out that the appropriate forum for raising matters related to alleged Garda failings was GSOC which was already investigating certain matters arising from the tragic death in this case.
In December 2015, my immediate predecessor, former Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, issued a letter to Mrs. O’Farrell setting out the outcome of the recommendation from the IRM review and the reasons for these. Before leaving the IRM, it is important that I make one further point. The matter of bias or conflict of interest has been raised in this particular case. One of the senior counsel on the IRM panel had represented the driver of the car that caused the death of Shane O’Farrell at his trial. Repeated assurances have been given that such conflicts of interest were catered for and I am advised categorically that this senior counsel had no involvement in the review of Mrs. O’Farrell’s complaint. Let me be clear about one thing. The independent review mechanism examined the complaints referred to it, notwithstanding that GSOC had already begun an investigation. Having examined each complaint, the IRM determined that these same matters were being investigated by GSOC and as a result made its recommendation.
As mentioned, a number of complaints were made to GSOC by the O’Farrell family and my predecessor, former Minister, Alan Shatter, also referred certain matters relating to the case to GSOC. GSOC's investigation involved consideration of 56 complaints made to it by the family and matters referred to GSOC by the then Minister, Alan Shatter. In April 2018 GSOC issued its first report on the case to me and provided a copy to the O’Farrell family. The report has been published on the GSOC website. For the sake of clarity, I want to say that the date, 29 March 2017, on the first report as sent to the O'Farrell family is an error. My officials have been informed by GSOC that it was a typographical mistake and the date should have been 2018. This has been corrected in the version published on the website.
This first report considered this from a criminal perspective. Each allegation was examined to determine if any conduct by the gardaí could constitute an offence. The primary complaints considered by GSOC were alleged failures by the gardaí relating to the fact that the person who caused the accident had breached bail conditions in the months before the accident, alleged failure to check tax and other matters when the car that was involved in the collision with Shame O'Farrell’s bicycle was stopped shortly before the collision, alleged failure to bring charges against a person for withholding information about the accident and alleged failure to keep the O'Farrell family fully informed of certain matters.
GSOC found there were no grounds for criminal proceedings against any garda. However, it identified conduct that may lead to disciplinary proceedings. It immediately began a report on the disciplinary issues that this case gives rise to under the Garda disciplinary code. The current GSOC investigation is examining an alleged failure to check tax and other matters related to the car and the owner of the car involved in the collision and an alleged failure to bring bail conditions to the attention of the court or to reactivate a suspended sentence when the person was charged with subsequent offences prior to the date of the collision. This work is ongoing and, given the lengthy and detailed investigation to date, I expect that report to be completed without delay. The findings of GSOC’s report on disciplinary matters may be quite serious. I urge colleagues in this House to be mindful of the importance of allowing GSOC to determine whether any gardaí may be guilty of a breach of discipline and to be careful not to interfere with that process.
GSOC is conscious that all parties, including gardaí under investigation, have rights and is not jeopardising the ongoing disciplinary investigation by naming persons who have the right to be heard and offer an explanation for the conduct under investigation. When the investigation is completed, the report will be forwarded to the Garda Commissioner under section 97 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It will be open then for the Garda Commissioner to consider what action, if any, he thinks appropriate under the Garda disciplinary regulations. GSOC is the independent authority established by statute to investigate allegations of wrongdoing or failings by members of the Garda Síochána. GSOC's independence is its guarantee to members of the public and to members of the Garda who are the subject of a complaint, that any and all complaints will be investigated properly and thoroughly, with due regard to the rights of everybody involved.
The House may find it useful to know that the GSOC report made a number of more general recommendations. It stated that attendance in court for victims, especially in cases involving fatalities and serious assaults, can be particularly traumatic. This can be exacerbated by the fact that there is no clear listing system available to the public, especially for the District Court. Furthermore, cases are often taken out of turn and new cases are added, which further extends the waiting time and uncertainty as to when exactly a case will be heard. GSOC also drew attention to the inability to hear clearly in the courtrooms of our District Courts, which can be frustrating. It also states that victims should be provided with appropriate information about a case and given it in a timely fashion. Finally, it states that better communications between the courts, Garda and the prison service might prevent significant issues being overlooked or missed such as bail conditions that may have been breached in any particular case.
I thank GSOC for these findings which I have asked my officials to examine to determine what action I, as Minister, may take to address these issues without delay. I know it is a source of deep frustration and upset for the O’Farrell family but it remains the case that the GSOC disciplinary investigation must be completed before any decision on what future action can be taken. I strongly reiterate the commitment previously given to the O’Farrell family that once the GSOC investigation is completed, the question as to whether there remain issues that require further investigation will be fully and transparently considered.
It is clear there are a number of troubling matters surrounding the circumstances leading up to the road traffic incident in which Shane O’Farrell’s life was cut tragically short. The GSOC report clearly identifies those matters. They were, in fact, failures. In the debate in the other House last Tuesday, I was emphatic that I accepted that they were failures. A man, who had numerous previous convictions, including for theft, drugs and road traffic offences, and who was on bail at the time of the incident, had also been arrested for other offences while on bail. We all know there are laws related to the obligations on those who obtain release on bail and there are sanctions if those bail conditions are breached. Unfortunately in this particular case those sanctions were not implemented and there was a failing.
Leaving that to one side, I will say that the failings identified by GSOC are very serious. The failings in the follow-up following a breach of a bail condition is unacceptable. My Department will be working closely with An Garda Síochána to ensure that appropriate systems are in place to bring such breaches to proper notice. In the debate earlier this week on the proposal to set up a commission of investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O’Farrell, I moved an amendment to the motion. My amendment commits the Government to consider what further action may be necessary when all other investigations are completed. If such further action can best be achieved and advanced by a commission of investigation, the Government will take steps to do that.
I cannot be any clearer than that.
At the heart of this is a tragedy and a family in pain. We should remember that they are searching for answers and deserve our sympathy and support. Once again, I extend my sincerest condolences to the O'Farrell family.
Before calling Senator Robbie Gallagher, I welcome to the Visitors Gallery Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell, the mother of Shane O'Farrell. She is very welcome.
I also welcome the Minister to the House at the invitation of myself, and Senators Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and David Norris.
I warmly welcome Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell to the House. I extend my deepest sympathy to her and the O'Farrell family on the tragic loss of their beloved son, Shane. It is not natural for a mother or parent to lose a child. It goes against the grain of life and how life is meant to be. Mrs. O'Farrell and her family will have to live with this for the rest of their lives. What adds to the pain and sense of loss is the fact that if the organs of the State had been functioning properly, Mrs. O'Farrell would not be in this House this afternoon and none of us would be here discussing this entire sad affair.
The O'Farrell family have put their own lives on hold since the sad loss of their son, Shane. They have worked tirelessly seeking justice and answers to questions that they rightly ask and to which they have failed to get proper answers so far. To date, the State has failed them in this entire matter. The family are at least entitled to know the facts of what happened on the night in the lead-up to the event. They have been waiting too long. They have been waiting six years for answers. It is not on for any State body to take six years to produce a report on any issue. For GSOC to take six years to conclude a report on this issue only adds to the pain that the O'Farrell family is going through. If we even had a conclusion after six years, we could live with it reluctantly. Alas, we are now told there are more investigations to be done before the family can get the answers to their questions that they deserve.
This is about the O'Farrell family and their son being taken from them tragically. It is about how the State and the organs thereof, in not doing their job, have led us to where we are today. It is important for the O'Farrell family that they get the answers they truly deserve. Lucia O'Farrell said to me that this is not just about her family but also about the future. It is about putting mechanisms in place such that no family or parent will be in this House in time to come discussing a similar issue. It is important that the State learns from the many failings in this entire episode. It is important that we act swiftly to ensure the proper mechanisms are in place so that the organs of the State all know exactly what they are meant to be doing and their responsibilities. As matters stand in the case in question, that has not happened.
No words of ours can bring Shane back. The O'Farrell family will have to live with the loss for the rest of their lives. We can do something, however. Events this week in the Lower House demonstrate that we are trying to do something collectively to address this issue. My party, under its justice spokesperson, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, has called for a commission of investigation to determine exactly what happened. Based on the Minister's comments during the week in the Lower House and this afternoon, it is evident that he has concerns about this but for the O'Farrell family to have closure to its story, it needs a commission of investigation to establish the full facts.
We, as a society, also need a commission of investigation to make sure we put the proper mechanisms in place to ensure nobody else has to live with a sentence like the one the O'Farrell family has to live with. I plead with the Minister, therefore, to support the motion tabled by Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, in the Lower House this week in order that a commission of investigation can be established immediately. I see no reason this cannot happen and why it could not run parallel with the other work. Ultimately, it will be an independent investigation doing its own work and coming to its own conclusions. I ask that the Minister seriously consider this request and put mechanisms in place to ensure this happens without delay.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome a very remarkable woman, Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell, to the House. This is a Greek tragedy; I do not believe any other phrase can describe it. There are three principal actors. There is Shane O'Farrell, a remarkable young man who was brilliantly clever and with law degrees from both Trinity and UCD and who was a significant athlete. He was a handsome young man and was loved by his family. Then there is Lucia, his mother, a most remarkable woman. She would be an addition to any commission of inquiry. We have just had a meeting with her this afternoon and she presented a lucid, clear, detailed forensic examination of the timeline of everything that occurred in this appalling case. Then there is Zigimantas Gridziuska, a Lithuanian drug addict who had multiple convictions before he even came into this country. He arrived here as if he had a clean slate and then embarked on an extraordinary career of crime. There is no doubt whatever that had the Garda, at a series of stages, acted appropriately and as it is required to do by law, Shane O'Farrell would be alive today.
Let us consider the Minister's speech. Some of it I welcome, including the tone of commiseration with the O'Farrell family. To a large extent, however, I believe he is just passing the parcel. Someone in the Garda may get a rap on the knuckles and that will be it. There are serious issues to be considered, including issues of principle and issues that affect not just this case but also a series of others, both in the past and future.
The Minister stated: "For clarity, let me state that the independent review mechanism was not established to act as a commission of inquiry or investigation". That is one very good reason we should have such a commission of inquiry. My colleague, Senator Bacik, just indicated to me that the Lower House has just passed a resolution demanding an inquiry. That is the voice of the people. It will ring out from this Chamber also today.
Matters arise such as the conflict of interest. I am not impugning any base motives but one of the senior counsel involved in the so-called independent review mechanism was somebody who had represented the driver of the car. There is a clear conflict of interest. The Minister says he had nothing to do with the independent review mechanism.
I thought the Senator was not impugning anybody.
The Minister will have an opportunity to reply. Senator Norris should continue.
I thought the Senator was not impugning anyone.
Senator Norris, please.
And then the Senator goes on to impugn him.
I am suggesting there is a conflict of interest.
Senator Norris should speak through the Chair. He can make his comments and the Minister will have an opportunity to reply at the end.
I am sure the Acting Chairman has told the Minister that too.
I have, yes.
What was this man doing on the independent review commission at all? What was his function there?
Then there is the question of the events on the day on which the incident took place. An hour before the incident, the car containing Mr. Gridziuska was stopped by the Garda.
He had no tax and no NCT. That car, by law, should have been seized. Had it been seized at that point Shane O'Farrell would still be alive.
I refer to the recommendations of the GSOC report. One is that attendance in court for victims, especially in cases involved with fatalities and serious assaults, can be particularly traumatic. Where has that come from? Of course it is traumatic, but what is really traumatic is the death of a beloved member of the family. The report says better communication between the courts, gardaí and the Prison Service might prevent significant issues being overlooked or missed. How many times was the situation regarding bail overlooked, missed or not adverted to? In my opinion the judge should always ask whether there was any question of bail.
I have been involved in this case since early 2012 when I had communication from Mrs. O'Farrell. She sent me a photograph which I have here of a happy scene - a mother, a father and a handsome, brilliant young son at a graduation. Here is what Mrs. O'Farrell wrote. I have her permission to read this into the record. I think it is important to put the human face on matters:
The inquest last week brought us to an all-time low. I heard details of how lovely Shane lost his life, dreadful details that no human being should ever be subjected to. My poor Shane was hit from behind, airborne for a while, carried on the roof, bonnet and windscreen of the car. He was then flung from the car and slid along the road. I simply could never have imagined in my worst nightmares that something so horrific could happen to someone so loved, so perfect.
Let us look at the catalogue of what has happened. First of all, Mr. Gridziuska came into the country trailing a list of criminal offences behind him, but he behaved as if he had no record. He had 42 convictions when he killed. This was not something that happened accidentally, just out of the blue. It was something that was almost inevitable given the character and behaviour of the principal perpetrator. He had seven convictions for heroin and he also abused alcohol. What state of mind was this person in driving a car - an untaxed, uninsured, untested car? That car was subsequently tested and it was found that when one turned the wheel to the left it continued to the left until it stopped and the same when it was turned to the right. He was in multiple breaches of bail. He was on bail from Carrickmacross District Court. He was on bail from Cavan. Seven months before he killed he attended Monaghan Circuit Court where the case was adjourned on condition that he stay out of trouble, not commit further theft offences and if he was arrested for theft, he was to be returned anywhere on the circuit and he could be jailed. He committed nine theft offences between that court order on 11 January 2011 and killing Shane on 2 August but the Garda failed to return him to Monaghan court.
In May 2011, four months after the Monaghan Circuit Court appearance, he committed five days of theft in County Louth. The judge was not informed of the conditions set out at Monaghan Circuit Court and gave him a four-month sentence, but suspended it for two months. He also entered a bond to keep the peace. On 11 May in Dundalk he was convicted of speeding. Two weeks later he reoffended with another theft. No effort was made to return him to Monaghan Circuit Court as per the order of the court. No action was taken to reactivate the four-month suspended sentence.
On 14 July, two weeks before he killed, he was arrested in Newry, Northern Ireland, for three offences of theft. The interesting thing is that the Garda misinformed the public about this. The PSNI contacted the Garda to get information on his background, so the Garda was well aware of the situation at that point. In all those circumstances, given the multiple offences, and the fact that had the Garda on numerous occasions acted as it was required to do, Shane O’Farrell would be alive today.
It seems to me that the only thing to do is to have a full, independent and public inquiry. I have met with Mrs. O'Farrell on many occasions over the past six years and I have found her to be a very remarkable woman. She is a woman of extraordinary strength and intellectual vigour in pursuing justice for her son, but she needs closure. She needs to be able to close the book on this terrible case and to grieve properly for her beloved son.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I extend my sympathies to Lucia O'Farrell on the tragic death of her son, Shane, who should not have tragically died in the manner he did. It is clear that issues arise that were totally wrong and should not have happened. It is just not acceptable to have someone out on bail with multiple convictions who was allowed to drive a car and to cause this horrific tragedy.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said in his address. The matter is with GSOC and it has yet to report on it. When GSOC does report on the matter and if it is then deemed necessary to carry out further investigations or to have a commission of investigation I have no doubt the Minister will do that. It is appropriate at this stage to allow GSOC to do the job it has to do.
Only half an hour ago we spoke about the appointment of Patrick Sullivan to GSOC, somebody with a wealth of experience from the United States. He has worked with the FBI and the US Secret Service. He has a breadth of knowledge and now he has taken up a position with GSOC. There are people in GSOC who are very capable and very competent. I believe that the appropriate course of action at this stage is to allow GSOC to complete its report. Depending on what is in the report, if further steps have to be taken at that stage it is incumbent on everybody to do so, but we must allow GSOC to do the job it is charged with doing. It is a pointless exercise to have GSOC if we do not let it do the job it is charged with doing. It is easy to stand up and demand a commission of investigation and in many ways it is very hard to argue against it, but at the same time one must balance one's approach with the recognition of the professionalism of GSOC and the fact that it is in the process of investigating the matter and carrying out a report on it. The appropriate thing to do is to allow GSOC to get on with its work.
It cannot be said often enough that this is a terrible tragedy. A family has lost a loved one. None of us can understand the trauma involved in that. I offer my condolences and those of the House to the O'Farrell family.
I first met with Lucia and her husband, Jim, some years ago when I was the justice spokesperson for my party. As a councillor, a Deputy and now as a Senator I met many families over the years who were seeking justice and answers but I do not think I have ever met a family with such a depth of love for their lost loved one. Their grief was so intense it struck me hard that day and it has never left me. We are here today because Lucia O'Farrell and her family are never going to stop until the full truth is reached and the absolute calamity of the criminal justice system in regard to what happened and the circumstances that led to this case are addressed.
This was a whole-of-justice-system failing. It was not just a failing of numerous members of An Garda Síochána from the front line to the senior management; it was also a failure of our courts system, our prosecution service and of communications with our nearest neighbour in the North. When Mr. Gridziuska was before the courts in the North, An Garda Síochána was contacted by the PSNI to confirm his address and criminal record, which was done, but even then the alarm bells did not ring. This was a whole-of-system failing and to leave this to GSOC to investigate is an abdication of responsibility by the Government. The only way to get to the bottom of everything that went wrong is to conduct a public inquiry. I am proud to say, with Lucia and her daughter looking on from the Public Gallery now, having watched the Dáil vote earlier, that the elected Parliament of our people has sent a clear message to the Minister today. He must set up a public inquiry into all of the circumstances that led to the death of Shane O'Farrell.
It is quite devastating to listen to the full details. Lucia briefed a number of Senators before this discussion today. She has her briefing document with her now. It is a long scroll that one has to hold above one's head to read which outlines the catalogue of offences committed by Mr. Gridziuska in his home country, in our State and in the neighbouring jurisdiction. He broke the law over and over again and time and again he got away with it. He made a mockery of our justice system, our Courts Service and our policing service. We cannot bring back Shane O'Farrell or undo the heartbreak that has been caused to Lucia and her family but we can build a justice system that learns from its mistakes and sorts out its grave failings. These were failings of human beings and of systems that led to a catastrophe for the O'Farrell family.
The Minister must listen to the will of the people as voiced in the Dáil today. He must also listen to the voices in this House who are telling him that, with all due respect to GSOC, which has a role to play, this case is not for that organisation alone. This needs a full public inquiry. I wish to focus on GSOC for a moment. There are serious lessons for us here. It took six years for its report to be finalised but it is just not up to specification. It is terrible and there is no getting around that. It does not ask the hard questions of An Garda Síochána.
It accepts the Garda version of events again and again. It does not deal with the fact that the PSNI asked for the records and received them from An Garda Síochána but no analysis was done. It does not deal with the fact that a vehicle with no insurance and no NCT which was being driven by a drug addict, with a number of other addicts as passengers, was not seized. The car was waved on. The report does not address the fact that again and again, the will of the courts was not implemented. All of this was just accepted and no hard questions were asked. In politics, we talk about people appearing on television programmes and getting a "soft interview". My God but An Garda Síochána got a soft interview. What a shocking failure. We need to give more powers to GSOC and to radically reform that organisation. That is the lesson from this episode. As it happens, GSOC was not the appropriate body to investigate this case because it is much wider than An Garda Síochána. As I said already, this is a whole of justice system calamity.
The depth of love and grief and the determination and dedication of Lucia and Jim has never left me. That is why we are here today. At the same time, I wonder about all of the other families who have suffered. A lot of people in this country were brought up to believe in those in a uniform, in authority and with an education - our supposed "betters". How many poor families just accepted their lot? How many families, overwhelmed by their grief, just let it go? How many other families never got to have their say? On behalf of this House, I thank Lucia because her battle is not just for her beloved son; it is for all of the families who were failed by our justice system, by An Garda Síochána and by our courts on occasions.
The Minister can smirk all he likes but he has a responsibility to respect the will of our Parliament and Dáil Éireann today, which has given him a democratic mandate to set up a public inquiry into the full circumstances of Shane O'Farrell's death. GSOC has submitted its first report on the case but it must now be put in the hands of a wider public inquiry because this is a whole-of-justice-system failing. It is not just a failing of An Garda Síochána but of the whole system. That is the Minister's responsibility. I totally endorse the comments made by Senator Norris. There was a conflict of interest in relation to the review mechanism. For God's sake, a five year old, never mind an eminent Minister, could see that. There is no point in questioning and challenging Senator Norris on his rightful assertion. This is a calamity from start to finish and the only tenable response is a full public inquiry with all of the participants coming before it, with all of the answers to be found and justice to be done. We must try to ensure that no other family goes through what the O'Farrells have gone through already.
I welcome the Minister to the House and Ms Lucia O'Farrell to the Public Gallery. As others have done, I offer my sincere condolences to Lucia, Hannah and Gemma and to all of the O'Farrell family on the sad death of their son and brother Shane on 2 August, 2011. As colleagues have said, Shane had a long connection with Trinity College in Dublin. He studied there for a Master's degree in law and had just finished that when he was so tragically killed. His sisters are also graduates of the law school of Trinity College. Like others, I know this case and am aware that my Labour Party colleagues, Deputy Howlin and Senator Nash have been actively engaged on it for some years. I know from speaking with Deputy Howlin that he asked the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, some years ago to initiate a scoping inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell to see if a commission of investigation was warranted. Had that been followed up at the time, it would have met the needs of the family in terms of what they now seek. Indeed, the Dáil has just voted to require a public inquiry into the killing of Shane and the into the circumstances surrounding the State's failures.
I am glad that the Minister has acknowledged in both Houses, the failings of the State in respect of Shane's case but the question now is what we, as legislators, do about those failings. As Deputy Sherlock said earlier this week in the Dáil, what the O'Farrell family needs is more than empty platitudes; we need to see action on this. I commend the family, and Lucia in particular, on the forensic work they have done in compiling such a detailed file on the case - on the perpetrator and on the events leading up Shane's death on 2 August and the way in which the case was dealt with subsequently. The submission made to the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly's plenary session by Mr. Nick Scott on behalf of the family provides an extremely concise and comprehensive account of the numerous failings.
They included permitting Zigimantas Gridziuska the perpetrator of Shane's death to be at liberty on 2 August at a time when he was, in fact, in breach of bail orders and suspended sentences, and had been sentenced to a custodial term, which he did not serve. Less than one hour before Shane O'Farrell's death, the car in which Mr. Gridziuska was a passenger had been stopped in a drug squad traffic stop and the car was then able to continue. Failings following the hit and run are also listed, such as ensuring that criminal justice was effective with regard to the further charges being faced by Mr. Gridziuska before the courts, at which points the Garda failed to raise the breaches of bail and suspended sentences and where answers were not given to judges in courts who were seeking information, and information was not provided.
When we consider the litany of failings we see they were failings of communication within and between the different courts and justice agencies in our system, as well as failings on a cross-Border basis between the courts in the North and the South. It is especially sad when we look at the dates. On 14 July 2011, just two weeks before Shane O'Farrell was killed, Gridziuska had been arrested in Newry and the PSNI had contacted the Garda to confirm his address and check his criminal background. He received a suspended sentence the following day from a Newry court, but no steps were taken to ensure a joined-up action by the Garda in this jurisdiction and the PSNI in the North, which would have ensured enforcement of court orders made against Mr. Gridziuska. I will not go through all of the details of the failings, but the forensic work by the family clearly outlines the numerous failings. I have referred to the Newry court, but there were also courts in Border counties in this jurisdiction. It is not a coincidence that this case arises from Border and cross-Border incidents. As Members are aware, before the disclosures tribunal currently there are gardaí who were in charge in Carrickmacross and other Garda stations at the time. Moreover, policing on a cross-Border basis and in Border counties here has been the subject of numerous critical reports over recent years. It is a failing of all of us that we have never joined those reports up. As the Minister is aware, I was a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality for several years and during that time, the committee heard from the Garda Inspectorate and addressed Seán Guerin's report. There also was the Morris tribunal and all of these reports, many of which focus on policing in the Border counties such as Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal. The Minister is aware that there has been a whole sequence of findings that were highly critical of our practice of policing. In his own speech, the Minister referred to the GSOC report into Shane's death, that was finally produced in April this year. The end of that report summarises some of the issues arising from problems in the justice system. I believe the GSOC report could have gone a lot further, to say the least, simply by referring back to the many criticisms levelled at gardaí and policing by the policing inspectorate and others. Some of those criticisms have been: lack of co-ordination; lack of communication internally; sloppiness in following up on complaints made; lack of respect for victims and families of victims and problems with information technology, IT. While these may be mundane to point out, they can be critical. When one reads through the forensic list of failings, one sees there are problems with IT systems, and a lack of ability to use IT systems. This is not a new point, it has been made by the Garda Inspectorate also. Seán Guerin's report refers to lack of supervision and probationary gardaí being appointed to investigate quite serious cases in many instances, and yet not being given the support, supervision and mentoring from senior colleagues that would have been required to enable effective investigations. We know that all of these policing failings form a context within which this case has arisen.
There has also been the immense delay in GSOC producing the report. As Senator Mac Lochlainn has pointed out, the Dáil has just voted two to one in support of holding a public inquiry into this case and in support of a motion, as amended, which criticised GSOC for having a timeframe that was not acceptable for producing such a report. I am a defender of GSOC. I supported its establishment but I was somewhat critical of the lack of powers given to the organisation when it was originally set up in 2005. Given the immense delay, however, and the multiple failings both within policing and the justice system with regard to lack of communication, the O'Farrell family clearly has lost faith in the ability of GSOC to investigate the matter adequately. I practised in the District Court for many years in criminal practice and am aware of many of the difficulties and issues that arise. I believe it would be useful to have a public inquiry and commission of investigation into this case. It would serve a useful function, not only in bringing closure and adequate information to this desperately grieving family that is so directly affected, it would also serve a useful function to us all in giving us a focal point to outline how the justice system can be remedied so it will no longer fail victims of crime and their families in the way Shane's family has been failed. It would help us to see precisely where the errors arise in communication, lack of supervision or lack of joined-up practice in our policing, especially our Border policing. It would enable us to improve upon the system and make sure that no family suffers in the way Shane O'Farrell's family is suffering.
I ask the Minister to respect the vote of the Dáil. He did not refer to the vote in his statement but what does the Minister propose to do to ensure the Dáil vote today in support of the public inquiry is carried out? On behalf of the Labour Party, I endorse the call for a public inquiry.
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, and on my own behalf, I send my condolences to the O'Farrell family, especially to Lucia who I met earlier and to her daughter Gemma, who I know personally in a work capacity. I have been aware of the case for a long time and I had never had the honour of meeting Lucia until today. We met in LH 2000 in a small room where she was able to give us a forensic analysis on the inadequacies and of the timeline around the case. I could not believe the number of failings she was able to point out. It was not just one or two; we are talking about hundreds of failings within the system. As other Members have pointed out, the only real way we can identify these failings, improve upon them and ensure they do not happen again is through the mechanism of a public inquiry. I am glad that the Lower House has passed a motion demanding a public inquiry with a significant majority of two to one. Clearly, this is the will of the people and it is incumbent on the Minister to listen to his colleagues in the Lower House. A public inquiry such as this needs to be set up immediately and without any delay. We saw unbelievable delays in the GSOC report and the family were waiting for six years but really still have nothing. GSOC is still waiting to see whether or not disciplinary sanctions should be brought against various members of the Garda. As a public representative it is very hard to accept this and it must be even harder for the family. It is very hard to understand why nobody is being brought to task for inadequacies or for wrongdoing.
We know that Shane O'Farrell died following a very tragic road accident in Monaghan. He was killed in a hit and run by Zigimantas Gridziuska. When Shane was killed Mr. Gridziuska was on bail for a number of offences and had breached the conditions of that bail. He was serving suspended sentences that should have been activated had the courts been informed of his convictions. This is the communications aspect of the case, which fell very short. There appears to have been absolutely no sharing of information between the Garda and the courts. This really has to change. We have to look at improving this mechanism, be it by improving the computer systems or by being more forthcoming to the courts. A public inquiry will be able to address this issue, isolate it and effect change properly.
Ultimately, we know that had Mr. Gridziuska been in prison, he would not have been at liberty that day and Shane O'Farrell would not have been tragically killed. I commend the family, who has courageously, and in a very dignified way, pursued justice for Shane. They have been unrelenting in their quest for justice and they have done so with the utmost honour to Shane's life.
They have also done a serious service to other families around the country who have struggled with these failings but who may not have been able to voice them or be an advocate like Lucia has been. Lucia had the benefit of her own forensic skills but also the skills of her daughter, Gemma, and other family members who were able to club together. They had the energy, will and determination to keep going with this case to ensure that they had the answers they needed so they could finally put this to bed, grieve and know that they had done right by Shane and done everything they could to show that Shane's life was worthwhile and what had happened to him would not happen again to any other person or family in this country.
Shane's death was a great tragedy and it has highlighted so many inadequacies in our criminal justice system. I will not go through all of the inadequacies, many Members of the House have already done so, especially regarding the day in question when, unbelievably, Mr. Gridziuska's car was pulled over one hour before Shane was killed. The car did not have a valid NCT, passengers included known drug dealers and the car was in an awful state of repair. The fact that it was not taken off the road and an hour later Shane was killed does not bear thinking about. It is unbelievable that this occurred. I implore the Minister to accept the resolution that was passed in the Lower House and let us know what steps he is taking to set up a public inquiry without delay.
I acknowledge that at the heart of this debate and tragedy is a family suffering great loss and grieving for the loss of a loving and loved family member. Having said that I thank Senators for their remarks and comments, all of which I have carefully noted. I will do three things. I will reflect on the comments made by Senators this afternoon. In response to the invitation of Senator Bacik I will reflect on the Dáil vote - particulars of which were not in my possession when I was speaking. I will also repeat a commitment that was given to Mrs. O'Farrell and her family regarding the question of a further investigation.
I acknowledge the issue of due process here and the fact that there is an investigation under way as we speak at the hands of an independent body, namely, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I am mindful of the comments that have been made here in the Seanad, notwithstanding that. I will certainly not rule out further action in the form of a commission of investigation. If such a commission is set up we will all have an opportunity to discuss its terms of reference in due course. In the meantime, my reflection will include the fact that there is a measure of due process to be considered and honoured insofar as the current, independent investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is concerned. I ask for a period of reflection and I am happy to report back to the House in due course.
I thank the Minister. That concludes statements on the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell. When is it proposed to sit again?
At 2.30 p.m. next Tuesday.