Inquiry into the Death of Shane O'Farrell: Statements

At the heart of the matter under discussion is the dreadful loss of a loved one by the O'Farrell family. As in the past, including in the debate on these tragic circumstances in the Dáil last week, I express my sincere condolences and those of my Government colleagues to the O'Farrell family on the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell.

I stress that we are all working towards achieving the same goal, that of responding appropriately to the acute pain of the O'Farrell family arising from that dreadful loss and of addressing, in a meaningful way, their search for answers. In this context, I am glad to have the opportunity to clarify a number of important points regarding this matter. I look forward to a constructive debate on how we can fully address this matter in a legally robust way.

The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have been addressed on several occasions in this House and the other House. As I said in Dáil Éireann on 12 November, the terms of reference of the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton were finalised in September. Since that debate, Judge Haughton has made his interim report to me and is making progress. I will return to that shortly but first let me assure the Seanad that there is absolutely no intention on the part of myself or the Government to limit in any way the scoping exercise under way.

The terms of reference of the scoping exercise are focused, as required by the law and clearly set out by the Supreme Court in Shatter v. Guerin, to reduce the risk of legal challenge to the recommendations of the scoping exercise. The judgment of the Supreme Court requires the terms of reference of a scoping exercise to be as specific as possible to remove potential ambiguity and focused enough to promote a timely outcome to ensure fairness to all parties. However, they still allow for review of the issues intended.

In his interim report, Judge Haughton set out the issues he is considering in some detail. He said that he plans to conclude his scoping exercise without delay. My Department is providing assistance to him to seek to ensure that his important work can be completed as soon as is possible, particularly in terms of ensuring he has access to all relevant documentation from a range of sources. I understand that he has shared his interim report with the O'Farrell family and I intend to publish it shortly, following ongoing consultation with the judge himself and with the O'Farrell family.

I also very much welcome the fact that the O'Farrell family have decided to work with Judge Haughton and to supply him with the documentation they have in their possession. It will be important to ensure that the judge has sufficient time to fully consider what I understand is a significant volume of documentation in reaching his final conclusions.

In terms of that final report, I want to be clear that Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including recommending the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. It is also the case that the O'Farrell family is free to make any representations they wish to him in respect of any matter into which they wish to see inquiries made. The judge has made that clear in his interim report to me. Should he recommend an inquiry of whatever type, he has been asked to provide draft terms of reference for such an inquiry for obvious reasons.

I am anxious to see real progress on this tragic matter. However, in view of the motion that was passed in Dáil Éireann last week to widen his terms of reference, I ask Senators to appreciate that I cannot, and should not, prejudge Judge Haughton's report or change his terms of reference in a way that does not comply fully with the law. I take this opportunity to respond directly to the concerns with regard to the terms of reference of the judge's scoping exercise.

In establishing the scoping exercise itself and in determining its terms of reference, I have been guided by legal advice from the Attorney General. The terms of reference of the scoping exercise must be compliant with the line of jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court's decision in the Shatter v. Guerin case.

As Minister for Justice and Equality, I must act within the law at all times and indeed so must all of us collectively.

The terms of reference provided to Judge Haughton respect the law but, and I will repeat this point, there is no impediment on Judge Haughton to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of future inquiry if he considers that necessary, and the O'Farrell family are free to make any representations to Judge Haughton in relation to any matter that they would wish to see inquired into in any future inquiry.

This is not the first time we have addressed this issue in the Seanad. Judge Gerard Haughton is an experienced and respected judge. He has spent most of his life in the practice of law in road traffic cases as a practitioner and for many decades as a respected and effective District Court judge, dealing primarily in the area of road traffic law. He is also very dedicated to the work he has been asked to undertake for which I am very grateful to him. I know he has been engaging closely with the O'Farrell family and I would hope to see that engagement continuing in this sensitive and tragic case.

I ask all Senators to reflect on the situation as I have laid it out and to join me in seeking to make progress on this matter as quickly as possible through the process that is already in place.

I welcome the Minister back to the House this afternoon to discuss the tragic and evolving story of the death of Shane O'Farrell who, as we all know, died as a result of a road traffic accident in County Monaghan in August 2011. He was killed in a hit-and-run by a man who had 42 previous convictions. The driver of the car was on bail in respect of several offences. He had breached the conditions of those bail bonds and had been serving suspended sentences that should have been activated, had the courts been informed of his convictions. In short, had the criminal justice system been functioning properly, the driver would not have been at liberty on the day he drove that car and was involved in that hit-and-run. The family, naturally, are devastated by their tragic loss.

A Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, investigation commenced in early 2012. It was, I am disappointed to say, a total failure. It dragged on for over seven years and left the family with no real answers. While it was one of the cases referred under the independent review mechanism to consider allegations of Garda misconduct or inadequacies in the investigation of such allegations, the independent review mechanism directed no further action because the matter was with GSOC. Clearly, there are still questions to be answered.

On 14 June 2018, the Dáil voted in favour of a motion calling on the Government to immediately establish a public inquiry into the death of Shane. On 5 February 2019, the Minister appointed Judge Haughton to conduct a scoping inquiry into matters surrounding Shane's death. The Minister sought to significantly curtail the terms of reference of that inquiry, as drafted by Judge Haughton, and in doing so has undermined the process of the scoping exercise and placed significant restrictions on Judge Haughton.

I do, however, take on board the presentation of the Minister at the outset of the debate.

Fianna Fáil brought forward the motion calling on the Minister to adopt the terms of reference as drafted by Judge Haughton. As the Minister knows, terms of reference are clearly binding on an inquiry. They establish the jurisdiction of that inquiry in setting out what it can and cannot inquire into. Limiting the terms of reference of this matter significantly limits what can be considered by the judge and, consequently, what recommendations the judge can ultimately make. The terms of reference, as they currently stand, do not reflect the spirit of the Dáil vote and nor will they enable us, as a nation, to learn of the extent of the dysfunctionality of elements of our criminal justice system. The Fianna Fáil motion was passed by Dáil Éireann but the Minister has refused to broaden the terms of reference.

The O'Farrell family, as we all know, have worked tirelessly seeking to get justice for their son and brother. The State has failed them in the manner in which the death of Shane was investigated and prosecuted. The State failed the family in the manner in which their complaints around the investigation and prosecution were handled by GSOC. The State is continuing to fail them in the attempt to limit the terms of reference of the scoping exercise.

The O'Farrell family must be commended on the courageous and dignified way in which they are pursuing justice for Shane. They have been unrelenting in their quest for justice and by so doing, they are doing the utmost to honour Shane's life. In many ways, the lives of the O'Farrell family are in stand-by mode and have been for more than seven years. It is difficult for the ordinary man or woman in the street to comprehend why the wrong that was done was not made right at the first available opportunity. Here we are and, in the Minister's words, not for the first time he is in this Chamber explaining what the State is doing in order to address the wrong.

The O'Farrell family have not had the time to mourn properly the death of their son. It is bad enough for any parent to bury a child. It is totally unnatural and goes against the grain of life as we know it. To compound that tragic loss is the fact that a wrong was done and that wrong still has not been righted. Clearly, there is a responsibility on us all, as legislators, and the least the O'Farrell family deserve is for the truth to be told about what happened not only so that the O'Farrell family can get justice and time to mourn the tragic loss of their son and brother but that we, as a State, can learn from the shortcomings that were illustrated clearly by this entire episode. We, as a State, must learn from the wrongs that have been done and can learn what actions must be taken in future to ensure that we will not be discussing another family at another time in this House or the Lower House.

I listened to the Minister's words with great intent. I was heartened, as I am sure the O'Farrell family will be, by one sentence the Minister repeated. He said he is anxious to see progress on this matter, as we all are, and I ask that the Minister, through his good offices, will consult with the O'Farrell family. There is no point in us doing scoping exercises unless all the parties, particularly the O'Farrell family, are happy with what has gone into that scoping exercise. All we want is closure and the O'Farrell family deserve that.

The Dáil and the Seanad both passed strong resolutions calling for an independent inquiry to be established into the death of Shane O'Farrell. The Minister has not acceded to this so he is actually in defiance of the wish of both Houses of Parliament and that is an extraordinary situation.

I listened to the Minister on the wireless during the week and he said that Judge Haughton had been appointed and was in a position to make recommendations regarding the terms of reference for the scoping inquiry. That was very disingenuous because we knew beforehand that the Minister had rejected Judge Haughton's detailed suggestions about the terms of reference of the scoping inquiry. The Minister had already turned them down. It is rather extraordinary for the Minister to go around saying that Judge Haughton could make representations on this. The O'Farrell family also made representations and were ignored.

The Minister has replied to questions in the other House. On 12 March 2019, Deputy Bríd Smith asked a question and the Minister's reply was that he had "invited them to give their views on those terms of reference directly to Judge Haughton". He continued by stating "Judge Haughton has met the O'Farrell family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their input into any amendments that might be required." He further stated "Of course, it is open to Judge Haughton to propose changes to the terms of reference to me" and "I have not placed any restriction on Judge Haughton". The Minister did not place any restrictions on Judge Haughton but he did not accept the recommendations of Judge Haughton on the terms of reference.

Deputy Bríd Smith asked another question on 16 May. In response, the Minister stated:

I invited them to give their views on those terms of reference to the judge ... I understand that Judge Haughton has met with the family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their input into any amendments which might be required.

That deliberately gives the impression that the O'Farrell family and Judge Haughton will be listened to, but they were not listened to and considerable restrictions were placed by the Minister on the terms of reference for the scoping inquiry. My good friend from Fianna Fáil stated he accepted the Minister's good intentions - we all do - and he hoped the O'Farrell family would be satisfied, but they are not satisfied. They are very far from satisfied. They are utterly disgusted by the situation and have made that clear in any meeting I have had with them. The family say they are concerned that the rejection of the judge's proposed terms of reference undermines the scoping inquiry and that the new terms of reference proposed by the Department are deliberately narrow, thereby limiting the scope of what can be considered by the judge. That is not being satisfied; it is being very dissatisfied.

In June 2018, the Dáil overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for an independent public inquiry, which was followed up by this House. I tabled exactly the same motion that Fianna Fáil had tabled in the Dáil and it was passed unopposed. Neither the spirit nor intent of the resolution, however, has been enacted by the Minister or his Department. Instead, in February 2019, the Minister chose to appoint a retired District Court judge, Judge Gerard Haughton, to conduct a scoping exercise to address the public controversy surrounding the circumstances of Shane's tragic death. The O'Farrell family met Judge Haughton and had a good, positive meeting, following comments by the Minister to the effect that the family would have an opportunity to consult the judge in respect of the terms. The terms of reference under which the scoping exercise will be conducted are crucial. They tell the whole story. The scoping inquiry sets it down clearly. To limit it is to limit any inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O'Farrell.

Judge Haughton subsequently submitted terms of reference to the Department on 24 April 2019. The family respect the terms, which go some way to reflect the spirit of the motions passed by the Houses. The Department rejected Judge Haughton's terms of reference and further narrowed the original terms of reference, which the Department had proposed in February 2019. I have a list of clear, specific and factual complaints from the family. The Department removed references to Shane and the family's rights under the ECHR to ensure an effective investigation into the unlawful killing. To date, the State has failed in its obligations under the ECHR. It removed consideration of the prosecution of Shane's case, the first matter for consideration by the Department in the February terms of reference, and any consideration of the coroner's inquest into Shane's death, in which serious irregularities have emerged, yet they are not being investigated. Surely to God this is the precisely the type of matter that should be examined and included in the terms of reference. The Department also removed any investigation into the previous prosecutions of the accused, despite him being in breach of multiple counts of bail when he killed Shane. It is tragic that the car which killed him was stopped a couple of hours before the accident and drugs were found in the car. The car was defective, it had not passed the national car test and it was not licensed. It should have been seized at that point, and Shane O'Farrell's death would not have taken place. The Department has limited the judge to take into account the outcome of reports prepared - reports that, in the family's view, are deficient - rather than a review of the investigations behind the reports, as originally envisaged in the February terms of reference.

The family have stated:

An independent public inquiry is the last chance for the State to meet its ECHR obligations to investigate properly Shane’s unlawful killing and to carry out an effective investigation into the true and full circumstances of the unlawful killing and the role of State authorities in Shane’s death. The family has the utmost respect for Judge Haughton, however the family believe that the terms of reference now proposed by the department do not reflect the spirit of the Dáil and Seanad resolution. [It is clear that is the case.] These terms will not allow the inquiry to ascertain the full and relevant facts pertaining to Shane’s case and appear to be an attempt to curtail the scope of the Inquiry and further delay matters. The terms proposed by the department would lead to a narrow and unfair consideration of the complex legal and public policy issues that are at play in Shane’s case and they are not sufficiently broad or exhaustive to address the State’s ECHR obligations. The family attend Dáil Éireann today [to speak about the case].

In his speech, the Minister seemed to hide behind the Shatter v. Guerin judgment but he is being unnecessarily coy in his approach. He stated he must act within in the law and that the terms of reference must respect the law. His proposed amendment to the motion stated, "[T]he terms of reference of the scoping exercise must be compliant with the line of jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court in the case of Shatter v. Guerin". In my opinion, the terms are compliant. Does the Minister seriously think Judge Haughton would propose something illegal? He has paid tribute to the judge's long experience and expertise in matters of law, but he suggested that he might propose something illegal.

I will read the Minister's reply with great interest. Unfortunately, my car has broken down and I have to take it to hospital.

I wish the Senator all the best in having his car sorted out. It is a big problem.

We are back where we were previously, as the Minister rightly pointed out. This is a tragic case and nobody wants to be here discussing it. I again offer our sympathies to Lucia O'Farrell and her family, whom we met in Leinster House. Senator Gallagher welcomed the part of the Minister's speech when he stated he wanted there to be progress on the matter. I wish to correct that. The Minister wants the truth on the matter and the matter to be concluded, as does every Senator. An eminent judge has been appointed and has delivered an interim report to the Government, which is being considered by the Attorney General, the Minister and the Government, in conjunction with the family. The Government will abide by whatever recommendations are made when the judge delivers his final report. It will facilitate whatever type of inquiry Judge Haughton recommends but the process must be allowed to conclude.

One cannot just turn one's back on recent case law. If a Government did that, it would be accused of being negligent and of not respecting or taking into account judgments of the Supreme Court, and this will not happen. Nevertheless, a family is grieving, and needs and deserves answers. They deserve that this jurisdiction and its structures will deliver those answers. I hope the judge recommends a full inquiry but I will not pre-empt what he will recommend. I have no doubt he will recommend what, in his wisdom and vast experience over decades in the legal profession, he deems to be appropriate and likely to achieve a swift result.

I recall well when this tragic case happened because it was only two or three months after I was elected to the House for the first time. I was elected in May 2011 and it happened during the summer. It was terrible. I am an alumnus of UCD, like Shane O'Farrell. We were all horrified and it is horrific to think that somebody on bail, with all those convictions, would be in a position to cause such unspeakable grief for a decent family, who work hard and have always done their best and more.

We have a responsibility to assist in bringing closure or finality to this. The Minister has chosen the most appropriate way to do that by appointing somebody who is independent and who will come back with recommendations. I have no doubt that when the recommendations come back, he will act swiftly. There is not much more to be said on the matter.

I met Ms Lucia O'Farrell and her husband, James, when I was Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice many years ago. I will never forget that meeting. As a long-standing Deputy, the Minister for Justice and Equality will appreciate that some meetings with families that have been through unspeakable grief are harrowing. My memory of that meeting is that the family had been destroyed by tragedy. Shane's mother, Lucia, had a framed picture of her beloved son and she had so many questions. It has been a long and hard road to get to the process now under way with Judge Haughton. The family has seen much disappointment and frustration.

It was clear from early on that the matters arising were not solely applicable to An Garda Síochána and they related almost to the entire criminal justice system and how it functions not just in this State but throughout the island, how it communicates and how it ensures that those who are a threat to the public can be taken off the streets. These are very serious matters. It was always going to require much more than just a GSOC investigation as the scope needed to be much wider. The only way of getting to the truth is a full public inquiry.

It is the duty of any Government to respect the wishes of the majority of democratically elected representatives. A majority of the Dáil voted for a public inquiry and we unanimously passed a motion in this Chamber seeking a public inquiry. The Minister will recall that the motion, tabled by Senator David Norris and similar to the previous Dáil motion, laid out the catalogue of failure that culminated in the circumstances that led to Shane's death. Rather than respecting the democratic wishes of the Members of both Houses, the Minister proceeded to get advice and asked Judge Haughton to carry out this scoping exercise.

It makes me angry today that the Minister referred to the track record of Judge Haughton and how eminent he is because nobody has disputed that. The family has made clear its absolute respect for Judge Haughton but its issue is with the Department of Justice and Equality. The family's issue is with the Minister's statement that his Department has no wish to interfere with the remit of Judge Haughton, whom he speaks of in venerable terms today; it is exactly what the Department has done. Judge Haughton engaged with the O'Farrell family and he is an eminent man of the law. He is fully aware of the Supreme Court decision referred to by the Minister and, in his wisdom, he submitted terms of reference to the Minister that are precise and would allow us to get to the truth. They are within the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights, which all governments must adhere to in such cases. The Department has chosen to reject those, so the only people demonstrating disrespect to Judge Haughton are the Minister and his officials. There is nobody else. We do not need the Minister to lecture us on his view of this judge as he has demonstrated profound disrespect to him and his interpretation of the law.

I recall the Shatter v. Guerin episode well as I was my party's justice spokesperson at the time. It is incredible that the Minister would present this case as the context for seriously amending the terms of reference presented by Judge Haughton. The issue at stake there was an investigation carried out by Mr. Guerin, a senior counsel, who did not consult the then Minister with responsibility for justice, Mr. Alan Shatter, to establish a response to the issues that were at stake but who had consulted other parties. The finding was a lack of justice in that but it has no application to this matter because Judge Haughton is not making commentary on the standing of any persons. He is merely making recommendations as to what way we should proceed to get to the truth and justice.

The Department of Justice and Equality has historically been one of the most conservative Departments in government and resistant to change, and it has failed in so many ways, as evidenced by a multitude of episodes in recent years leading to two Ministers and other senior personnel having to resign. It is astounding that motions from the Dáil and Seanad have instructed the Government to move to a public inquiry but the Minister has not done that. It has given the task to Judge Haughton and the Minister spoke about his track record, which nobody has questioned. The family has outlined clearly its respect for the judge.

It is outrageous that we are here again today having to engage with the Minister. I have no doubt that despite the outcome of today's statements, he will refuse to accept the will of the Dáil, as he did last week and will do in regard to this House again today. He has no respect for these two Houses on this matter. If he did, the Minister would stand up to his departmental officials. If he respected Judge Haughton, he would stand over his proposed terms of reference but he has not done so. Yet again we have another Minister who refuses to stand up to the conservative elements in this Department, thereby failing a family.

The family members are watching this on the live feed and could not be here because of the short notice for today's debate. If they were here, they would say that the death of their beloved son and brother would not have been in vain if we could get to the truth and change our criminal justice system, the way An Garda Síochána communicates with our courts and the Police Service of Northern Ireland or how our courts communicate with each other on this island. If this could happen, no other family would have to endure what they have had to. If this is about getting to the truth, learning lessons and honouring the memory of that young man, the Minister must stand up to the officials in the Department and give Judge Haughton the framework he requested. He must enable us in getting to the truth. That is his challenge and although I hope he can accept it, I very much doubt he will do so.

I welcome the Minister to the House and the fact that the Leader acceded to our request when Senator Rose Conway-Walsh and I asked that these statements take place today on the Order of Business earlier. I am grateful for that.

It is disappointing that we are again debating the need for a public inquiry into the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell. This is a matter we all thought had been resolved by previous debates and votes on motions in both the Dáil and Seanad, as other speakers have noted. Like them, I express my condolences to the O'Farrell family on the tragic loss of their son and brother, Shane, who as we know was killed in a tragic event on 2 August 2011, more than eight years ago, when he was cycling near Carrickmacross. Shane and his family have a long connection with Trinity College Dublin and the law school in particular there. I commend my TCD colleague, Senator David Norris, who has led in making representations on behalf of the family in this House. I acknowledge he has been supported by many others.

When the motion for a public inquiry came before the Seanad on 13 February at Senator Norris's request, it was passed, with all agreed on it, and a similar motion was passed by the Dáil in June 2018. We are back here again because of the family's serious concerns about the failure to implement in full the express wishes of the Dáil and Seanad on the need for a public inquiry. That is what makes this so disappointing. Like others, I have spoken to Lucia, Gemma and the O'Farrell family when they were in front of Leinster House some two weeks ago to express their concerns about the narrowing of the terms of reference, which appear to be much more restrictive than those originally drawn up for the scoping exercise to be conducted by Judge Haughton, for whom, like others, I have immense respect. However, it is unfortunate that these terms of reference have been so narrowed. I am glad that today the Minister has clarified to the Seanad that there is no impediment on Judge Haughton to make any recommendation he sees fit and that the O'Farrell family is free to make representations to him.

However, it is unfortunate that the Minister referred to the case of Shatter v. Guerin, as others have noted. In the Dáil, my Labour Party colleague, Deputy Penrose, also spoke on this. What should have been done in respect of Shatter v. Guerin, was that the Government should have reverted to the Dáil and Seanad as promised, if a proposal was going to be put forward on the Attorney General's advice to amend the terms of reference. Instead, it was an Opposition motion that brought the Government back to the House on the issue in the Dáil last week and it is a request by the Opposition which brought the Minister here before the Seanad today to deal with the issue again. It is unfortunate that there is not a more proactive approach being taken by the Government on this matter, given the express wishes of both Dáil and Seanad to see a public inquiry established.

Senator Norris and others have listed the family's points of concerns but they are that the terms of reference are more restrictive and in particular that they do not facilitate the inquiry being conducted into two specific issues. The first is a review of the investigations carried out to date, given the piecemeal investigations meaning that each procedural failing was looked at and treated as a separate event, rather than enabling us to have an overview of the entire chain of events and what we have described previously as a litany of failures across policing and justice agencies on both sides of the Border. That is important. As I have said previously, we have seen a number of different reports over some years, notably reports from the Garda Inspectorate, from Mr. Sean Guerin, senior counsel, and from the Morris tribunal, which have been highly critical of failings in policing and in criminal justice administration in the Border counties and a lack of communication in particular, between policing and prosecuting authorities on both sides of the Border. That is the first point that needs to be addressed in a scoping exercise and subsequently in a public inquiry. We also need a review of changes in law and practice in the context of bail and bench warrants. Lack of communications amounted to a serious issue. Because of gaps in the system, as other have noted, someone who should have been stopped and who arguably should not have been at liberty was free to perpetrate this utterly tragic and horrific death. This is a breakdown in the criminal justice system and in our system of policing. That is why all of us in these Houses have called for a public inquiry, to ensure that not only do we know what happened and what was the chain of events that led to the death of Shane O'Farrell so tragically in August 2011 but also to ensure that we can identify the system failings that occurred and that contributed to that death to ensure that they will not be allowed to happen again.

To conclude on a different note, as someone who cycles every day and who has regularly raised issues around cycle safety in this House, I am concerned about a failure to ensure adequate safety for cyclists and a failure to prioritise the safety of cyclists in national transport policy. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, was just in the House dealing with transport issues. There has been a real lack of prioritisation of cyclists and of cycle safety. Only in the last few weeks there was a very tragic death of a cyclist in my local area of Dublin 8, on the South Circular Road. We have seen a number of really awful accidents and deaths of cyclists on our roads in recent years. Not only do we need to ensure that we have a means of addressing systemic failures in criminal justice and in policing where people can continue to drive when they clearly should have been put off the road, but we must also address systemic failings in our transport policy that lead to a lack of safety for cyclists on our roads. I speak as someone who sees daily the real hazards for cyclists in Dublin city centre in the lack of joined-up thinking around provision of Luas, road layout and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians. Cycle safety is also a real concern looking outside Dublin. That is part of the context in which this horrific death happened. I will conclude by expressing my admiration and respect for the O'Farrell family, and for the dignity and persistence they have shown in seeking to ensure that nobody else will suffer the same tragedy they did.

I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for coming at such short notice. I appreciate how he has laid out his statement to us today. It is sensitive and there are many issues at stake. I do not doubt that anyone wants to get to the truth but to do it in an appropriate, properly structured way. I do not believe that anyone wants to stop the full story getting out there and justice being afforded to the O'Farrell family. I welcome the O'Farrell family, who are watching these proceedings on live webcast.

They are listening and they are here, although they cannot be here physically. I also acknowledge their enormous energy and commitment for their family, including their son who lost his life so tragically. All of us would fight for the same thing. They have engaged with me, more than I have them, and I met them outside Leinster House. That is an important space for the public and for citizens to come and engage with us. I always said I would like to see more people on this side of the gate rather than on the other side. People come to Leinster House regularly. There can be ten or 12 issues or campaigns here every day. They bring great meaning and it is a great place of engagement when people come to the gates of our Parliament and when politicians take the time and the trouble to go out to those gates and listen to those people. I had the opportunity to meet the extended O'Farrell family on several occasions. I met them two weeks ago and I thank them for coming with their message.

Let us put some context on this. In 2011, Shane O'Farrell at 23 years the only son of the O'Farrell family, was killed in a horrific hit and run by a man who had multiple breaches of bail and who should have been in State custody. Shane was studying the law while others were breaking it. He had just completed his degree in law at UCD and his masters in law in Trinity College Dublin. As others have observed, the Dáil and Seanad passed resolutions calling on the Minister to have a public inquiry but to date, to great disappointment, there has been no public inquiry. As the Minister knows, it is alleged that there was Garda interference in this case. The criminal justice system has let down the O'Farrell family in this case and it is clear that there are serious failures in the criminal justice system and too many questions in respect of this case remain unanswered.

It is paramount that the public confidence in the working operations of An Garda Síochána and the criminal justice system are upheld. The Minister has always said that and I do not doubt his commitment for one moment to ensuring there is public confidence. However, this case has dented public confidence. It is a really serious case that has been covered by most media outlets. People are outraged and concerned at how this case has ended up so far. There is an obligation on An Garda Síochána to bring persons convicted of criminal offences, while serving suspended sentences, before the courts and to inform the sentencing court in respect of a person who has been convicted of subsequent offences. Where a member of An Garda Síochána becomes aware that a person has breached or is in breach of conditions of bail, there is an obligation on such a member to bring that breach to the attention of the court.

There is also an obligation, which the Minister will be familiar with, of bringing the breach to the attention of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, so that it can be properly investigated. All of the complaints it receives are investigated and determined in an appropriate and timely manner and fashion.

I note the points that the Minister made when he summarised his statement here today and felt reassured. I acknowledge that he said there is no impediment on Judge Haughton "to make any recommendation he sees fit, including recommending the establishment of any form of [...] inquiry" in the future. The Minister continued: "The O'Farrell family is free to make any representations they wish to [Judge Haughton] in respect of any matter into which they wish to see inquiries made". Those comments give me hope and we have to have hope. I shall finish as I started by saying that I do not believe that anyone in this Chamber is trying to block justice. It is a difficult situation to be fair. Process has to be followed and it is important that we get this right. Clearly, it is unacceptable that this has gone on for so long. We are back in here today and, hopefully, we are going to assist in progressing this matter.

I wish the Minister well with this sensitive issue. It is important that in some way we respect the sensitivities and acknowledge the separation of powers and the importance of the judge in this case. We must also acknowledge the family, their grief and their circumstances. Ultimately, we have to take professional and legal advice.

Today has been a good day and I shall finish by thanking a few people. To be fair, Fine Gael did not oppose the motion to suspend the Order of Business, and the House made a unanimous decision. The motion was agreed by the Leader and I acknowledge his support. I also acknowledge the people who proposed the motion in Sinn Féin and the Labour Party. Finally, I acknowledge and thank Members for their very high-quality contributions this afternoon.

Shane O'Farrell should not be dead. We are here not because he tragically died, because the sad reality is that people die and lose their lives every day. We are here because of the systematic failures that did not necessarily lead to Shane's death but certainly it could have been prevented had the failures not existed.

I am very conscious of all of the legal language that has been used here today. It is important that those views are articulated and those arguments are made in this institution. The last time we spoke about this matter the House agreed that there should be a public inquiry. It is incumbent upon us to refocus our minds on the fact that there is a family grieving the loss of a loving son and brother. I have had the unfortunate honour and privilege of knowing many campaigning families and individuals who have had to fight to access truth and justice, and some of them had to fight for 50 years. Sadly, some of these people are still fighting to access truth and justice. It is a great travesty and injustice that we would further heap trauma on already suffering and hurting families.

The Minister is meant to take his mandate and direction from the will of these Houses and, indeed, use his own counsel. I do not doubt for one second, as Senator Boyhan said, that there is no-one in this House who does not want to get to the truth but I wonder about the people outside this House because of the following simple reality. If all of the evidence and rationale points to systematic failures from top to bottom, across the Border, back and forward, and between policing institutions and criminal justice institutions, then what is the rationale for not giving a family who have diligently campaigned and suffered so much what I think is a very modest thing in the context of a public inquiry? The establishment of an inquiry is the will of both of these Houses. The family desire an inquiry and I believe that it is also the desire of the vast bulk of people within Irish life. I think there is a clear rationale for an inquiry. There is a political and legal impetus on us to do it because of the clear and obvious failures. The curtain should not come done on this matter and the faceless bureaucrats in the Departments should not revert to their old traditional ways. We should focus our minds on shining a light on and rectifying what was a clear problem and clear failings that led to the life of a young brilliant man with so much potential being tragically and needlessly cut short.

I reiterate the call for a public inquiry because it is a great shame that we are forcing a family into a situation where they have to accept and concede to something less. Today, I speak with great disappointment but great feeling and solidarity with the O'Farrell family. I do not want to end my contribution on a negative note but I must end it on an unfortunate note. I have had the privilege of getting to know many campaigning families so I recognise a slow waltz when I see one and I sense that this is a slow waltz. I am equally encouraged by the campaigning families and, indeed, by the O'Farrell family and not least by Lucia. They are not going anywhere and should this take 50 years or more they will continue campaigning. We could ease or lift their burden of further stress and avoid re-traumatising them if we acceded to their request, and the will of these Houses, and gave them the public inquiry that they deserve and one we are compelled to deliver.

As no other Senators have indicated a wish to speak I call on the Minister to respond.

I very much agree with what I think every Senator has said, namely, that this is a most important and sensitive matter. I have listened closely to the comments made by Senators during the course of the debate. As I said earlier, we are all working towards achieving the same goal here, which is responding appropriately to the acute pain of the O'Farrell family arising from the loss they have suffered.

Can I say again that there is no intention on the part of the Government to in any way limit the scoping exercise, which is being carried out by Judge Haughton. We want to get to the heart of this matter. The Government, in this regard, is being guided by the advice of the Office of the Attorney General to ensure that this is done in a way that ensures that the recommendations of the scoping exercise are legally robust.

I listened carefully to the comments of Senator Bacik and I acknowledge her interest. I also acknowledge her expertise. She speaks of the fact that there is no review of the investigations contemplated. It is incumbent on me and upon all of us to ensure that the terms of reference for a scoping exercise do not encourage the making of findings that are final in nature. This is an important aspect of the requirement for absolute clarity in scoping exercises arising from recent Supreme Court decisions. We might not like to acknowledge recent Supreme Court decisions but we have to be bound by the jurisprudence that is available.

The O'Farrell family are not restricted in any way in making any representations or in furnishing any documentation to Judge Haughton. Judge Haughton is not restricted in recommending any form of further inquiry or terms of reference in that regard. There is a desire on all our parts to get to the truth. In doing so, we should not open a scoping exercise up to legal challenge by requiring it to look into matters more appropriate to a full inquiry, which is of course something that Judge Haughton is free to recommend in any event. The simple and unavoidable fact is that the scoping exercise must be carried out in accordance with the law.

I ask Senators to recognise that this is in the interest of all concerned, including, crucially, the O'Farrell family. We would not serve them well by establishing a scoping exercise without regard for the law because that would leave the resulting recommendations open to legal challenge. While the terms of reference of the scoping exercise are focused as required by law, they still allow for a review of the issues intended. Judge Haughton is free in his final report to make any recommendations he deems fit, including setting up any form of statutory, or indeed non-statutory, inquiry.

I welcome the constructive contribution and comments made by Senator Boyhan and I share his concern regarding the timescale involved. I am keen to ensure that we allow Judge Haughton proceed and establish the appropriate terms of reference as he deems fit in his final report. None of us should prejudge the report or its recommendations. We should also not risk delaying or undermining that important work by changing the terms of reference when Judge Haughton has already made good progress in the scoping exercise or by asking him to work under terms of reference not in compliance with the law. That would render his work vulnerable to legal challenge and further delay, and would not serve anybody well, especially not the O'Farrell family.

I and the Government recognise, appreciate and share the consistent interest Senators have taken in this tragedy. As Senator Boyhan rightly commented, however, we all have the same objective and we are working towards achieving it. I readily accept that the process is taking longer than any of us would have wished. I ask Senators, however, to recognise that the process should continue in accordance with the law and without delay or the additional risk of confusion that could arise from interference with the ongoing work of Judge Haughton. A clear process is in place and Judge Haughton has committed to producing his final report in the coming months. The O'Farrell family is working with his scoping exercise to ensure that all of the facts, and I do not say that lightly, are fully considered.

They will have little choice.

I will not be interrupted by political commentary from anyone. We are all working together.

The Minister interrupted Senator Gallagher and that is on the record.

I interrupted Senator Gallagher when he accused me of undermining the work of Judge Haughton, which is not the case. From subsequent comments made by Senator Gallagher, I know he readily understands that, and I accept his understanding. I am not undermining Judge Haughton and none of us should do that. I am pleased, and I hope the Senators are equally pleased, that the O'Farrell family is working with the scoping exercise to ensure all the facts are fully considered and that recommendations are made to address this tragic case.