Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Questions (266, 287)

Jim O'Callaghan


266. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a commission of investigation into the death of a person (details supplied) will be commenced as voted by Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37022/19]

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John McGuinness


287. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the scoping exercise in relation to the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied) has been completed; if his Department has agreed in full the terms of reference; if the family were asked for their input; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37338/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 287 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have been addressed by me on several occasions in both the Dáil and the Seanad and I have met with the O'Farrell family.

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

Judge Haughton subsequently met with the O'Farrell family to discuss the terms of reference and to seek their views. Following his engagement with the family, I received a proposal from Judge Haughton for some changes to the terms of reference for the scoping exercise.

This necessitated further consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. Subsequent legal advices have been provided which, in particular, emphasise the requirement to abide by the jurisprudence set down in the decision of the Supreme Court in Shatter v Guerin . I am sure that Oireachtas Members will appreciate the importance of ensuring that any new scoping exercise is framed and conducted in accordance with that decision. Work is ongoing on a priority basis to finalise the terms of reference of the scoping exercise and I am grateful to Judge Haughton for agreeing to undertake this sensitive and necessary work.

I regret the time it is taking but the Deputy will be aware of the new legal landscape that all of us in these Houses must operate within in the context of these sensitive and important endeavours which are subject to the supervision of the Courts.

My intention is that the terms of reference will be finalised as quickly as possible to allow for Judge Haughton to commence the scoping exercise shortly.

In terms of future timelines, I note that the judge is required to provide me with an interim report within 8 weeks of commencement. He is of course free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry. Should he consider it necessary to recommend an inquiry, of whatever type, I have asked him to provide me with draft terms of reference.