Thursday, 21 November 2019

Questions (104)

Mary Lou McDonald


104. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will act on the instruction of the majority of Dáil Éireann who in a motion called on him to amend a person's (details supplied) terms of reference for the scoping exercise into the death of a person. [48328/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell have been addressed by me in both the Dáil and the Seanad on a number of occasions and in a number of earlier responses to Parliamentary Questions.

I have noted and take most seriously the motion approved by Dáil Éireann on 14 November. I would point out however that my actions in relation to the O'Farrell case are and must be carried out in accordance with the law.

The terms of reference for the scoping exercise were focused, as required by the law in particular the line of jurisprudence established by the Supreme Court in Shatter v Guerin, to reduce the risk of legal challenge to its recommendations. The judgment 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.

Further, Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he sees fit in his final report, including 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 Judge Haughton in relation to any matter they wish to see inquired into, in any future inquiry. Should Judge Haughton recommend an inquiry, of whatever type, he has been asked to provide draft terms of reference for such an inquiry.

I welcome the fact that the O’Farrell family has decided to work with Judge Haughton and to supply him with the documentation they have.

While the process has taken some time, a clear process is now in place and it should be permitted to continue in accordance with the law and without the delay or additional risk of confusion which would arise if there were interference with the ongoing work of Judge Haughton.

Judge Haughton has submitted his initial report to me and this has been shared with the O'Farrell family. I intend to publish that initial report shortly, following consultation with the Attorney General.

Judge Haughton has committed to producing his final report in the coming months and the O’Farrell family is working with his scoping exercise to ensure that all the facts are fully considered and that recommendations are made to address this tragic case. I would ask Deputies to appreciate that I cannot and should not prejudge Judge Haughton’s report or change his terms of reference in a way that doesn’t comply with the law.