Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (293)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

293. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of a scoping exercise in a case (details supplied); if terms of reference regarding an inquiry have been changed; his views on the terms of reference as they were put to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44332/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have previously been addressed by me 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.

I am grateful to Judge Haughton for agreeing to undertake this sensitive and important work.

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 were provided which, in particular, emphasised the requirement to abide by the jurisprudence set down in the decision of the Supreme Court in Shatter v. Guerin which was delivered in 2019.

I can confirm to the Deputy that the terms of reference of the scoping exercise have been finalised. My Department wrote to Judge Haughton on 23 September to ask him to begin his scoping exercise and to make an initial report by mid-November.

Judge Haughton 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.

While I regret that this process has taken some time, I am sure the Deputy will appreciate the importance of ensuring that the scoping exercise was framed and conducted in accordance with that decision. All of us in these Houses must operate within the new legal landscape of sensitive matters of this type, which are subject to the supervision of the Courts. I look forward to receipt of the initial report of Judge Haughton later this month.