Fatal Road Traffic Collision in County Monaghan in 2011: Statements

Shane O'Farrell's death was a tragedy and his loss has had a catastrophic impact on his family. Shane was just 23 years of age when he was killed while cycling in County Monaghan in 2011. He was taken from his family at a time when he held so much promise for the life he might have lived. I again offer my condolences and profound sympathy to Mrs. O'Farrell, Shane's sisters and their extended family and friends. I cannot imagine the scale of their grief and know that no words of mine can bring him back to his family.

In the course of the last seven years I have met members of Shane O'Farrell's family and I am very familiar with their tireless quest to understand the circumstances which led to his death. I state categorically that there are a number of matters surrounding the circumstances of his death which are of concern. It is a fact 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 sentences. It is also the case that at the time of the accident he was on bail in respect of a number of charges. Shane's mother, Lucia O'Farrell, has asked for a public inquiry.

In the years since Shane O'Farrell's death my predecessors have attempted to address the concerns of his family. They have availed of the mechanisms at their disposal to determine what actions might be taken. In 2014 my predecessor, Alan Shatter, referred the matter to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. Members of the House will be aware that GSOC has statutory responsibility to deal with complaints concerning the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána. At the time of the then Minister's referral, GSOC was already investigating the case on foot of a complaint from the O'Farrell family and it merged the two into one investigation.

The following month, May 2014, the then Minister referred the case to the independent review mechanism, IRM. The IRM was established independently to review 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 might be required in each case. For clarity, I note that the independent review mechanism was not established to act as a commission of inquiry or investigation or designed to make findings. Its purpose was to examine allegations to see whether further action was needed by the then Minister and what that action would be. Under the IRM, the allegations made by the O'Farrell family concerning the circumstances of the death of Shane 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, as Members will be aware, was already investigating certain matters arising from the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell.

In December 2015, my immediate predecessor, the former Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, issued a letter to Mrs. O'Farrell setting out the outcome and recommendation from the IRM review and the reasons for these. Before leaving the IRM, it is important that I make one further point as I know that the matter of bias or conflict of interest has been raised in relation to this particular case. One of the senior counsel on the IRM panel had represented the driver of the car which 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.

The House will be aware that when it comes to a panel of expert lawyers, it is always possible that a conflict of interest may arise and it is, therefore, essential that appropriate procedures are in place. I am assured that the IRM panel took appropriate steps to ensure that nothing arose which might have in any manner detracted from the integrity of the mechanism. Arrangements were put in place to ensure that if there was any conflict, or potential conflict, the conflicted counsel not only would not be involved in the particular complaint, but also would not be aware of which counsel was undertaking the review.

Could I ask the Minister is there a copy of this?

Is there a copy of the speech?

I understand it is being circulated. This is normal professional conduct and there were sufficient counsel on the panel to ensure the practicality of this. Whatever steps were necessary in this regard and in relation to this complaint were taken to ensure there was no conflict of interest. This has been explained to the family, to their solicitor and to this House in reply to a number of parliamentary questions.

As mentioned, a number of complaints were made to GSOC by the O'Farrell family and my predecessor, Mr. Alan Shatter, also referred certain matters relating to the case to GSOC. The investigation on the part of GSOC involved consideration of all complaints made to it, that is, a total of 56 complaints made by the family and matters referred to GSOC by the former Minister, Mr. Shatter. In April of this year, GSOC issued its first report on the case to me and provided a copy to the O'Farrell family. The first report considered the case 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 which was involved in the collision with Shane O'Farrell's bicycle was stopped shortly before the collision, and alleged failure to bring charges against a person for withholding information about the accident and alleged failure to keep the O'Farrell family informed of certain matters.

GSOC found that 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 and 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. Indeed, I am sure Members of the House have read the statement issued by GSOC last night.

This statement clarifies that the investigation into complaints made to GSOC by the family of the late Shane O'Farrell is, in fact, ongoing. The report provided to the O'Farrell family was pursuant to section 103 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 by way of an update at the completion of one phase of the investigative 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, a report will be forwarded to the Garda Commissioner under section 97 of the 2005 Act. It will be open then to the acting 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. Its independence is its guarantee to members of the public, and, indeed, to members of the Garda who are the subject of complaint, that any and all complaints will be investigated properly and thoroughly and with due regard to the rights of all those involved.

On the matter of its first report, my understanding is that GSOC did not immediately publish that report so as not to cause further undue distress to the O'Farrell family. It is important, however, that the report is published and that there is transparency in this case on matters which are concerning not just to the O'Farrell family but to many in this House and beyond. It is my understanding that GSOC intends to publish that report today.

The House may find it useful to know that the GSOC report made a number of more general recommendations which I would like to set out here. 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, especially for the District Court, available to the public. Furthermore, cases are often taken out of turn and new cases are added, which further extends the waiting time. GSOC has drawn attention to the inability to hear clearly in the courtroom which can obviously be frustrating.

With regard to victims, the report states that victims can miss all or part of court applications because they are not informed that a case is to be dealt with while they are outside the courtroom or engaged in consultation. It 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, the Garda and Prison Service might prevent significant issues being overlooked or missed, such as bail conditions that may have been breached.

I thank GSOC for these findings. I have asked my officials to examine them to determine what action I, as Minister, may take to address these issues. On the question of a statutory inquiry into the circumstances of the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell, the House will be aware that the previous Taoiseach and Tánaiste, who met the O'Farrell family in the latter part of 2016, stressed that they would examine whether any further action was warranted once the GSOC investigation is completed.

I have almost concluded and I would ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to allow me a further 30 seconds.

It is an important statement.

While the criminal investigation has now concluded, there is still an investigation under way that could result in a recommendation for disciplinary action against one or more members of An Garda Síochána. That is a source of deep frustration and, indeed, upset for the O'Farrell family, but it remains the case that the GSOC disciplinary process must be completed before there is any decision on what further action can be taken. I strongly reiterate the commitment 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.

At the heart of this is a tragedy and a family in pain. We should remember that this family is searching for answers and they deserve our sympathy and support. I extend, once again, my sincerest condolences to Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell and members of the O'Farrell family.

In view of the importance of the statement, I allowed an extra minute.

It was much appreciated.

Other groups may require an extra minute.

Can we get a copy of the Minister's script?

They are being run off. I call Deputy O'Callaghan, who, I understand, is sharing with Deputies Niamh Smyth and McGuinness.

The death of Shane O'Farrell was a terrible tragedy not only for his loving family but, more especially, for himself. Shane, as we know, was a 23 year old graduate of law from University College Dublin. He had his whole life ahead of him and he was deprived of all the opportunities that he could have had. I reflect on my own life and what I was like as a 23 year old. As a graduate of law from UCD, I have had fulfilment and opportunities. Shane never had the chance to experience such fulfilment or opportunities.

Tragedies happen in families throughout this country but the reason the tragedy of Shane O'Farrell merits public discussion and debate in this House and public investigation is because it reveals a very significant inadequacy and inefficiency at the heart of the criminal justice system. It is important that we focus in on the central complaint of the O'Farrell family in respect of the criminal investigation and the Garda investigation into this matter.

It is important to recall that Shane was killed on 2 August 2011. We know the person who was driving the car that collided with his bicycle on that occasion because the person subsequently pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the scene of the crime and report the collision. It should also be noted that the person was subsequently acquitted of the more serious charge of dangerous driving causing death. The real issue of public concern is that the individual accused of these crimes who clearly was driving the car when it collided with Shane's bicycle had a series of criminal offences to his name and if the criminal justice system had been operating efficiently, it is highly likely he would not have been on the road on 2 August 2011.

I move to 11 January 2011, some seven months before Shane's tragic death. On that occasion in Monaghan Circuit Court the accused individual was convicted of theft. The judge stated that if he was convicted of other theft or fraud offences, he was to be brought back before him and that he would be put in jail. Fast-forward to 9 May 2011, three months before Shane's death, in Ardee District Court the individual was convicted of theft. The big question that must be answered is why was he not then brought back before Judge O'Hagan in Monaghan Circuit Court where he would have received a prison sentence and been put in jail. Subsequently on 11 May 2011, in Dundalk District Court the individual was convicted of speeding. On 8 June 2011 in Carrickmacross District Court he was convicted of possession of heroin. On 14 July 2011 in Newry, north of the Border, he was convicted of theft. On 25 July 2011 in Monaghan District Court he was convicted for having no tax disc Court. All of these offences may not have been fraud offences, but they were other offences that meant he had breached his bail bond. The question at the heart of the O'Farrells complaints is why was the individual not brought back before the courts in order that the judge could have been informed and executed the sentence that was hanging over the individual of being put in jail. I do not know what would have happened on 2 August 2011 had the individual been in jail, but there is a strong likelihood that the collision with Shane O'Farrell would not have happened.

We now have GSOC's report which does not answer the question I have just put to the House. We are told by the Minister that the investigation is ongoing. The questions which disclose significant inefficiencies and failings in the criminal justice system merit further and proper investigation. The O'Farrell family have had to wait six years for GSOC's report and are now told that they will have to wait further time to get answers to their questions. I appeal to the Minister to establish a commission of investigation. It is important that we do not give the O'Farrell family false hope. Unfortunately, it is the case that no individual will be convicted for the wrongful death, manslaughter or murder of Shane. That will not happen, but, as a family, they are entitled to accountability. They are entitled to be told why it was that an individual who should have been brought back before the courts was not brought back before them and who was responsible.

Almost seven years have passed since Shane O'Farrell was killed in an horrific hit and run accident in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. Shane was a handsome, young, intelligent man, an only son, with four loving sisters and his whole life to live. I cannot begin to imagine what Lucia and the whole family have been through and continue to go through having lost a child. Having lost him in such circumstances is unthinkable. They must be commended for the courageous and dignified manner in which they are pursuing justice for him. They have been unrelenting in their quest for justice and in so doing are doing their utmost to honour his life.

The accused should not have been at liberty at the time to kill Shane, flee the scene, abandon his car and hide it. If the justice system had been operating effectively, he would not have been driving on that day in August 2011 as he would have been in jail. He had been released on bail having committed numerous offences and breached all of the bail bonds, yet he had not been brought back before the courts for those breaches.

Three weeks before Shane's death the accused was convicted in Newry of theft. This should have led to his imprisonment in the Republic for breach of bail conditions. The car in which he was travelling had been pulled over by gardaí less than one hour before Shane was killed. The vehicle was being driven by an uninsured driver and it had no NCT certificate. The accused was well known to An Garda Síochána, Interpol and the PSNI. He had an extensive criminal record, with more than 40 previous convictions for a variety of offences.

The case reveals the shocking dysfunction at all levels of the criminal justice system. The O'Farrells were failed by the State on many levels. The beacon of hope for the family was GSOC's report. They have waited six long years for the report. They went over and above what could have been expected of anyone involved in this process, providing court orders from the State and other jurisdictions. They complied fully and engaged in the process. The fact that they had to wait six years for the investigation and report to be completed is a source of controversy in itself. It must be even more frustrating that when the report finally came to light, it did not provide the answers to which the O'Farrell family were entitled. Seven years after Shane's death it is clear that the only way the O'Farrells will get the answers they deserve and the only way we, as a nation, can learn lessons to ensure justice will be delivered and that the dysfunction with the criminal justice system will be rectified is through the establishment of an inquiry. It is true that nothing will bring Shane back, but how can his family possibly be expected to get closure without answers to their questions? How can we, as parliamentarians, stand by and let an injustice stand unchallenged, with no one being made accountable?

I welcome Lucia O'Farrell and her husband and family to the Visitors Gallery. They are observing this debate and will continue to do so until such time as an inquiry is established. The report does not cover accurately the aspects of the event, the case and happenings before 2011. Some of the descriptions in the report are quite insulting and I am sure it causes the O'Farrell family further stress, anger and frustration. For example, in speaking about the individual who murdered Shane appearing at the Garda station, the report states he admitted it to gardaí. What it does not state is that he was in custody in the Garda station for 11 hours before he admitted what he had done. It was only on the presentation of the evidence by his wife that he admitted that he had been involved in the accident and had caused the death of Shane O'Farrell.

The other aspect of the report concerns GSOC. It stated the outcome was entered on the Garda PULSE system. The O'Farrell family were told that it had not been entered on the PULSE system. They named the garda in question - I will not name them - and said it had been an error. Who is telling the truth about what happened to Shane O'Farrell?

Let us look at the truth. The criminal who killed Shane O'Farrell had been in breach of multiple bail conditions. On the night he killed Shane the criminal had 42 convictions. He was known to Interpol, the PSNI and the Garda. When he was in the neighbouring jurisdiction, the PSNI had him. He had been caught for further offences. When the family asked the Garda if it was aware of this, it stated it had not been made aware of it by the PSNI. There is a letter from the PSNI confirming that it was in contact with the Garda and had explained the issues surrounding the individual who had murdered Shane O'Farrell. Someone is not telling the truth.

The other issue is that in 2014 GSOC was requested by Alan Shatter, using the powers conferred on him under section 102(5) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, to carry out a public interest inquiry. He urged it to look beyond what it was dealing with in the context of the report. The report does not deal with all of the complaints made by the O'Farrell family. It only deals with a small number of them. It does not deal with the full extent of the 42 convictions outlined of the man who killed young Shane O'Farrell. He had never served time in custody before 2 August 2011, notwithstanding the fact that he had 42 previous convictions.

He had seven convictions for possession of heroin and was the subject of inquiries regarding the abuse of alcohol. On the night in question the registration of the car was flagged on the Garda system. The gardaí knew the three individuals in the car. There is no doubt about that. They had a criminal record and despite the driver of the car being uninsured and the car having no national car test certificate, nothing was done about it. The gardaí knew all of this and within an hour he had killed Shane O'Farrell.

This issue is as much about the O'Farrell family. They are central to this. Deputy O'Callaghan said they deserve the transparency and accountability. The State deserves it. It is not just Shane O'Farrell, it is the system from the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, down to the courts that needs to be examined. Please do not make them wait another six years.

I welcome Lucia and all the members of the O'Farrell family here today. Six years have passed since Lucia and Gemma O'Farrell submitted their first complaints to GSOC. They have waited all this time for a report that was to investigate in full the multitude of failings by the justice system before and after Shane was killed. We have read the GSOC report and are deeply concerned at its inadequacy. In 2015, former Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, ordered GSOC to undertake a public interest inquiry into Shane's death to allow GSOC broaden its scope, yet there is no evidence in the report that it did so. There is little evidence or explanation to underpin its conclusions, there are statements that are simply erroneous and the absence of a summation that clearly details each complaint, finding and rationale for GSOC's conclusions is inexplicable and disgraceful.

Critically, GSOC has not addressed the failures of An Garda Síochána and the courts to act on the multiple breaches of bail documented in the report on foot of the family's complaints. Had the man who killed Shane been returned to court as ordered in January 2011, the O'Farrell family would be complete today and they would not be sitting in the Visitors Gallery here this afternoon. It is beyond extraordinary that GSOC, having made the decision that no criminal offence occurred, will only now investigate these complaints as disciplinary matters. Justice delayed is justice denied. It seems abundantly clear now that GSOC is playing for time and is playing games. It strikes me that in first instance it is the Minister's job to put a stop to that. It is clear that the investigation necessary to uncover the truth is beyond the capacity and competency of GSOC and that an independent public inquiry is now required.

The O'Farrells' complaints to GSOC also pertain to the DPP. While the DPP enjoys the independence of its office, it must be accountable for its decision to delay progressing additional charges against the perpetrator until after his trial. The complaints raised and validated by evidence uncovered by the O'Farrells and Lucia has been utterly meticulous. The idea that she missed something is frankly an absurdity, and all this extends beyond one family's grief. There is a catalogue of significant failings across the judicial system that cannot go unchallenged.

How are communities living within this divisional district to have confidence in An Garda Síochána or the DPP if we cannot get answers to the failures surrounding Shane's case? On 2 August Lucia and Jim O'Farrell and their beautiful daughters will mark the seventh anniversary of their beloved Shane's death. We cannot and we must not let another year pass without justice for Shane. The Minister offered sympathy and support to the family - rightly so - and we echo that sentiment, but they do not want our sympathy. They want the truth and they deserve, and we need, an independent public inquiry.

It is now almost seven years since Shane O'Farrell was killed at the side of the road in County Monaghan. It is fair to say there was a failure by many of the agencies of the law and it is not unfair to say that the justice system as a whole in the State categorically failed the family of Shane O'Farrell.

The man responsible should not have been at liberty. He was the subject of 40 convictions. This report is a farce. It backs away from the points of failure at every opportunity. That it took six years to complete its 28 pages is extraordinary. The issue publication date was 29 March 2017. It has been awaiting further action or publication for over a year. If there are further actions or investigations to be undertaken by GSOC, where are they? What has begun in that regard?

It is possible that the Minister may not have read the report. When he does read it in its entirety and in detail, he should be asking serious questions of GSOC. This is a grossly deficient report in several respects. It echoes the version of events given by An Garda Síochána practically uncritically. There is no desire, effort or initiative to go beyond the version of events given by An Garda Síochána. It is not an investigation. It is a summary of the version of events that has been given. There are numerous examples of that, the fact that on two occasions the person who killed Shane O'Farrell, Mr. Gridziuska, was arrested in the North and the report simply accepts that these were not recorded on the PULSE system as it occurred outside the jurisdiction. There is, however, documentary evidence to say that the PSNI contacted the Garda Síochána. It also uncritically accepts the fact that, even though the car was stopped a few hours before Shane was killed, because it was simply a drugs search, there was no need to check for insurance or anything like that. It accepts that as a matter of course. It does not seek to go any further. I am very concerned about GSOC if this is the standard of work that comes out of it after six years. The Minister can call this report many things but I do not think he can consider it an investigation.

A public inquiry is required, and not just because of the deficiencies of this report. It should not have been before GSOC anyway because the failures in this case go far beyond An Garda Síochána. They extend to the Courts Service and the DPP. It is clear that an inquiry is the only way of getting to the truth. It has been far too long already. We are now approaching the seventh anniversary of Shane's death. We cannot delay any further. The Taoiseach and his predecessor did not rule out a public inquiry. We cannot delay any further and must progress that.

On 2 August 2011, a young, intelligent, vibrant life was taken by a man who should not have been in a position to do so. He should not have been where he was. The hard fact of the matter is that the driver of the car that mowed down Shane O'Farrell should have been in custody, in prison. Shane's life was taken and the lives of his distraught parents and family will be forever broken. The driver was a bail bond breaker and a serial offender on both sides of the Border. The absence of real joined-up policing North-South made it possible for this man to avoid the proper application of the law in both jurisdictions. Inexplicably, however, the absence of proper application of the law by members of An Garda Síochána, even where all the salient information was not to hand, merits comprehensive address. The recently published GSOC report fails the test.

This is not about scapegoating garda A or garda B. It is about exposing and addressing the systemic failures of our policing and justice systems. It is about putting in place real guidelines and real standards for policing, and not just in this State.

We also need reform of penal policy and sentencing. A significant number of prisoners in our prison system have been placed there for not paying fines, many, I expect, because they are unable to do so. Our prisons are occupied beyond capacity. I suspect there may be some impact from that fact in this case. A man who over the preceding 19 months, up to his taking Shane's life, had committed at least 25 offences, including possession of drugs, aggravated burglary, theft, the handling of stolen goods and a list of road traffic offences, was allowed to go free time after time, bail bond after bail bond. Something is not working. Something is not right.

We cannot have Shane back. We cannot really comfort his grief-stricken family in their immense loss but we can and we must ensure that the full truth is established and that the flaws in our policing and justice systems are identified and corrected. A full public inquiry will not end the O'Farrell family's heartache but it could and it should end the wrongs that contributed to Shane's tragic death. A full public inquiry is a societal requirement and one that should be initiated by the Government without any further delay.

I call on the Government to adhere to and accept the overwhelming desire of this House, and of the family of Shane, for an independent public inquiry into this matter. Until such time as we have a public inquiry, which is a political decision to make, I do not believe we can have absolute confidence that justice will be served in its entirety regarding the matter of the murder of this young man. This young man, as was said by his Mam, studied law and lived and believed in the law. The justice system and the agencies of the State have failed him utterly. That is set out in correspondence to the leader of my party, Deputy Brendan Howlin.

I note there is correspondence between Deputy Brendan Howlin and the Taoiseach dated 28 January of this year whereupon the Taoiseach, in his response to Deputy Howlin, states:

I am advised that GSOC officials met with the members of the O'Farrell family on 27 September 2017 and were given an update on the current position with regard to the investigation of their complaints. I am further advised that GSOC have been reviewing a number of matters raised by the family and that they hope to conclude their review and issue their report on the investigation shortly.

If we fast-forward to the Minister's contribution today on the GSOC investigation, it is important to quote from his speech where he states:

GSOC is conscious that all parties, including gardaí under investigation, have rights and are not jeopardising the ongoing disciplinary investigation by naming individuals who have the right to be heard and offer an explanation for the conduct under investigation. When the investigation is completed, a report will be forwarded to the Garda Commissioner under section 97 of the Garda Síochána Act. It will be open then for the Garda Commissioner to consider what action, if any, he thinks appropriate under the Garda disciplinary regulations.

To return to the Taoiseach's response to Deputy Howlin, and I am sure the same response was issued to other Members of this House, the Minister in his contribution today stated:

On the question of a statutory inquiry into the circumstances of Shane O'Farrell's tragic death, the House will be aware that the previous Taoiseach and Tánaiste, who met with the O'Farrell family in late 2016 have stressed that they will examine whether any further action was warranted once the GSOC investigation is completed. While the criminal investigation has now concluded, there is still an investigation under way that could result in a recommendation for disciplinary action against one or more gardaí.

My core point is that, notwithstanding the outcomes of any GSOC investigation or whether any disciplinary actions take place, there is still very much a need to ensure there is an independent public inquiry into this matter. If one refers to a submission to a plenary session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, entitled Submission to the assembly regarding the circumstances of the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell, it best articulates the litany of injustices that were done to this young man. The perpetrator was permitted to be at liberty on 2 August 2011. At that time he was in breach of bail. He faced yet more unrelated charges. The Garda failed to raise the fact that the perpetrator was in breach of bail, had suspended sentences and had been sentenced to a custodial sentence which he did not serve. The submission claims that the family were misled about the facts of their son's death. There were claims that persons chose not to answer questions put to them by judges, thereby misleading the court. It goes to the heart of the justice system. It is about justice for Shane and his family but it is also about the systemic failures that continue to exist within the Irish system. Is it a geographical issue? Does it pertain to a particular geographical location? One would have to conclude that the answer to that question is not necessarily so. I believe it is systemic right across the system.

I do not want to give empty platitudes to the O'Farrell family other than I hope they will recognise the fact that this Parliament in the majority is asking for an independent public inquiry and we want justice to be done for Shane O'Farrell, a man who was on his bike. Think about it. He was going about his business on his bike. He was a man who studied the law. He was a citizen of this country and he deserves more than he got. We owe it to his memory, to his family, his Mam, Dad and sisters, to do justice and to do right by him. I do not believe it will tax the State too much to have this. We need a proper outcome in terms of ensuring that everything is gone through in this instance.

The Minister's stated he strongly reiterated "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". I hope the Government would move now, having heard the overwhelming views of the majority of this House, towards giving some indication that a public inquiry should be held, notwithstanding the outcomes of any GSOC hearings or findings. It still needs to happen regardless of the GSOC report.

The next speaker is Deputy Gino Kenny who, I understand, is sharing with Deputy Bríd Smith.

Yes. I welcome Lucia and all her family who are in the Gallery. Today we should not be taking about Shane O'Farrell. Shane should have been getting on with his life, coming up to his 30th birthday, loving life and enjoying his career, but he met his end in a very violent way. Anybody who knows the circumstances before 2 August 2011 would know Shane should be alive today.

We should not be talking about Shane O'Farrell: he should be living his life with his family.

One would have to be completely incompetent or complicit to accept as an accident the circumstances that led up to the events of the 2 August 2011. This was an accident waiting to happen because of gross negligence and missed opportunities in the conduct of the local police force and the judicial system, which at best were completely incompetent and at worst bankrupt.

The system completely failed Shane and the O'Farrell family, even to this day. There has been a catalogue of failures, a litany so obvious that Shane's family at least deserves a proper explanation. The explanation has not come in the whitewash of the GSOC report. The family has waited for six years to hear something they already knew. I put it to the Minister that the only way the family will get justice is through a public inquiry. We all know that it will not bring Shane back and that the person who killed him on that night probably cannot be prosecuted, but the family can get justice. If the family does not get justice then it is a travesty. The family seeks some sort of closure and that there is some sort of accountability around the person who did this and the system that backed it up. This is all the family looks for. It is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but that is what the family looks for.

When we consider the GSOC report and all the failures of the system, anybody reading it - a lay person or a Deputy - would have serious questions on the role of the local police force and the collusion with the judicial system. Serious questions must be asked about particular people referred to in the report.

These are questions for the Minister and the Department of Justice and Equality to answer. The family asks that the Minister would stop prevaricating and give this family some sort of justice through a public inquiry. It will not bring Shane back, but in his memory justice should be done for the family.

I salute the family and in particular Lucia. Anyone who knows her is completely gobsmacked by her intelligence, decency, honesty, absolute determination and her deep love for her son. If the Minister has not yet met her, believe me when I say that she will not go away until this is brought to a conclusion.

This is a tragic case of the failure of the State and its agencies to protect one of its citizens. If the State fails to protect one of its citizens it fails to protect all. Shane O'Farrell was failed by the State because his killer was free to drive despite 18 breaches of bail conditions. The failure to protect has been worsened, and insult has been added to the injury, by the actions of State agencies even up to yesterday’s intervention by the Taoiseach on the matter during Questions on Promised Legislation. The Taoiseach stated yesterday that the GSOC inquiry found that many of the 58 allegations made by the family were found to be incorrect. I put it to the Minister that the report did not say that at all. The Taoiseach's assertion is a real insult to the family after what they have been through.

The main concerns I have about Shane’s case also reflect wider failures of the system that may also affect other cases of injustice. The catastrophic failures in this case were by the gardaí who come from the same division and area of the Sergeant Maurice McCabe case. They have a history, to say the least, of underperforming and a lack of transparency in dealing with system failures. That senior gardaí in the area acted incompetently is not up for debate.

It is a scandal that the GSOC investigation into the circumstances around Shane's death took five years. It is also a scandal that the report was not published for a further year. The Minister has said that GSOC did not immediately publish the report so as not to cause further undue distress to the O'Farrell family. This is why the family have had to wait to see a report that was published one year ago. Will the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, please explain what he meant by "undue distress" and by holding on to the report for a further year? I do not understand how this makes sense. I know that the family also does not understand how it makes sense.

To make matters worse, within the five years of the GSOC investigation the family was consistently fobbed off with a routine answer that was "You cannot talk about that matter, it is with GSOC". When People Before Profit first came into the Dáil in 2016 Deputy Gino Kenny and I asked questions about the case and we were told that we could not talk about it because it was with GSOC. The previous Minister for Justice and Equality repeatedly said that the independent review mechanism had looked at the case. The independent review mechanism did not look at this case. I am struck by the number of times that the stock answer given to questions around Shane's murder was that the independent review mechanism had advised no further action be taken. That did not happen.

The body of two senior barristers that was instructed to look at 109 cases was told not to look at Shane's case because it was with GSOC. It is highly irregular that this has not come into the public arena until now. One of those very senior barristers represented Shane's murderer in court. I am aware, from speaking with her, that Lucia O'Farrell had offered to pay for better representation for her son. The Director of Public Prosecutions said no, there was a certain budget and the family must hire junior counsel. The court, however, awarded Shane's killer both junior and senior counsel. Lucia O'Farrell had offered to pay for better representation. Even at that level, the representation afforded to the killer and the person who was killed was entirely imbalanced. There is something very wrong here that needs to be examined. Shane was represented by a junior counsel and his killer was represented by more than one: a junior and a senior counsel. I would like the Minister to address this please.

The GSOC report is scant and poor. This is an understatement, especially after five years of work. We need a full public inquiry into Shane's death, into the failures of the gardaí to protect him, into the failures of the courts to get justice from his killer, into the failures of the prosecution services, into the failures in the review mechanism which did not review the case and into the failures of GSOC for this completely inadequate report.

I repeat the call to the Minister to establish a commission of investigation, to look for accountability, to look for real answers to the complaints that were made and to allow the family finally to grieve. The State has an ugly history of hiding the truth, be it the truth on mothers and babies, or adoptees through agencies. Please do not let history repeat itself again. Please do not drag the family through more banging and knocking on the doors of the State to get truth and justice for their son. If the Minister thinks that Lucia O'Farrell is going to go away, or that the issue is going to go away, he has not met her. We have witnessed the cross-party support in the House to demand a public inquiry. It is very encouraging to see everyone putting their shoulders to the wheel. We will maintain this unity until there is justice for the family.

I add my voice to support the calls for a public inquiry into this. My son graduates this year from Trinity College Dublin having spent four years studying there. We look forward to celebrating my son's graduation. I cannot imagine having to deal with his death in the way the O'Farrell family has had to deal with Shane's.

Dealing with such a tragic death as Shane's is difficult enough but the way the State has since dealt with it is an indictment of the State. The Minister is a good man and I believe he will agree with us. It is now 2018 and almost seven years after Shane's death we have a GSOC report that, to avoid undue distress to the family, was not published until now. Surely this was a decision for the family to make. Rather than such a patriarchal attitude GSOC should have gone to the family with the report and advised the family that it would be upsetting.

The facts of the matter are startling. Shane O'Farrell was killed on the evening of 2 August 2011 while he cycled home. He was 23 years old and had just finished his master's degree at Trinity College Dublin. He was training for a triathlon that was to take place a few days later.

He went out for a cycle and did not come home.

The driver of the car that took his life had approximately 40 previous convictions in three jurisdictions, including for aggravated burglary, theft and road traffic offences on both sides of the Border. I could use my few minutes discussing the number of times the driver appeared before a court on bail without anyone ever examining or enforcing those bail conditions, but the reality is that a young man's life was taken when he was hit from behind by a person who was driving without insurance, tax or an NCT and who was on bail at the time. More startling than that, the car was pulled over a few hours beforehand by a Garda drug squad and checked for drugs. A second man was driving the car. He had no insurance or tax, so the drivers were switched, apparently with the permission of the gardaí, and the car drove on.

The facts are too difficult for me to read, and I am removed from the situation. I cannot imagine what it is like for the O'Farrells, who drafted a file for all of us. One of my introductions to the Dáil in 2016 was meeting them, going through the file and feeling utterly helpless about letting them down and not knowing what to do because of the investigations that were ongoing.

The Minister talked about a tragedy, but I will talk about an indictment. Consider the general facts of bail. This and previous Governments have been on continuous notice that the bail system is not working. I worked as a barrister and am convinced of the necessity for bail, but there are major problems with its operation. As Mr. Paul Anthony McDermott has pointed out, every judge knows that there is nowhere in our prisons to put people because they are overcrowded. We know it as well. There is no one to monitor bail conditions. The Irish Penal Reform Trust has found monitoring to be extremely erratic, with one interviewee stating that, in 40% of his applications to revoke bail, the conditions were not being monitored properly. I read the O'Higgins report. I felt it was moderate and the judge went out of his way to avoid criticising the Garda. My colleague on the left mentioned a case in Cavan-Monaghan. Similar to that was the tragic murder of Sylvia Roche Kelly by someone who was out on bail and had previously assaulted a female taxi driver, an assault that was serious but was recorded as being minor. He went on to murder a woman in Limerick.

I do not want to take from the seriousness of the Shane O'Farrell case, only to highlight that these problems have been ongoing for a long time, which every Government knows. To discuss a GSOC report now, which is being published a year after it should have been and years after it should have been made public, and tell us that victims find going to court difficult and are ignored and that the listing system is wrong, is pathetic and unacceptable. I must add my voice to the calls for a public inquiry. It is needed.

I welcome the brief opportunity to contribute on this critical matter. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Shane O'Farrell's family who are reliving the horrible night of his tragic death and are still waiting for justice almost seven years later. Twenty-three year old Shane was cycling along the N2 between Castleblaney and Carrickmacross on 2 August 2011 when he was killed in a hit-and-run by a man who clearly should not have been on Irish roads. Zigimantas Gridziuska, the 39 year old Lithuanian driver, had 42 previous convictions, breached bail 18 times and been convicted of theft in Newry just three weeks before he killed Shane. I believe the Garda Síochána was informed of these matters. He should not have been on our roads on 2 August and, tragically, Shane should still be with us.

Shane's mother, Lucia, and family are bravely continuing to highlight ineptitude in the implementation of areas of road safety and traffic law and their grave dissatisfaction with GSOC's report into the investigation, a report that astonishingly took six years to produce and publish. However, the O'Farrells are not alone in this fight. As the Minister knows, I have worked closely with Ms Susan Gray and her colleagues in the Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care, PARC, civil society group. PARC supports many families, including the O'Farrells, whose cases have been sent to GSOC for investigation. Many of those families have also been left bitterly disappointed at the outcome of a GSOC report and the lack of accountability among those involved in investigating road traffic collisions where their loved ones were tragically killed. We do not have a statutory and transparent system of investigating tragic road deaths and serious injuries, and this and previous Governments have done nothing to bring such a process about.

There are many problems with the level of safety on Irish roads, but I will highlight one in particular. On 18 May, I finally received a reply to a parliamentary question from the Road Safety Authority that reads: " [...] the number of drivers out of the 9,449 drivers disqualified in Court in 2017 that surrendered their licences to the RSA's NDLS was 1,289 [...] ". An astonishing 8,160 disqualified drivers were still driving around in 2017. When I asked the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Transport, Tourism and Sport how the Garda knew that these people were disqualified, they gave me some disconcerting replies. In the North, the PSNI has hand-held devices on the roadside so that police can check the status of a driver's licence. I recently asked both Ministers why a similar system had not been introduced in the South.

The opaque way in which their Departments and the RSA answer my questions - indeed, the Department of Justice and Equality does not answer some of them at all - is disingenuous and indicates that there is something to hide, that there are serious inefficiencies and discrepancies, and that there is a lack of attention to the business of the Department of Justice and Equality. For example, we have been waiting almost three years for clarification on whether the 521 drivers who had been disqualified in court for dangerous driving causing death or serious injury between January 2013 and March 2015 had already been disqualified at the time of those collisions. In an astonishing reply on 21 December 2015, the Minister for Justice and Equality's colleague, the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, told me that it was not possible to ascertain whether people were disqualified at the time of a collision or conviction. By the time he left that Department, he had done nothing to bring any clarity to the matter. I have had to write to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the Ceann Comhairle about outstanding parliamentary questions to the Department of Justice and Equality. Why the secrecy? Why is there such a lack of joined-up thinking with supported fit-for-purpose IT systems for the implementation of basic road traffic legislation?

These are just some of the thoughts that occur to me during this discussion. I strongly support the request for a public inquiry and urgent establishment of a commission of investigation into the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell. I hope that such tragedies do not recur on our roads. This is a serious responsibility, and the Minister's Department needs to invigilate it more effectively.

I am privileged to have the honour of contributing on this matter. I thank and welcome Lucia, her husband and her daughters to the House. She has been here many times. I salute the tenacity and endurance shown by her and her family in trying to get justice, not only for her son, Shane, but also for many other victims of heinous crimes.

People describe the incident in 2011 as an accident. I do not - I call it outright and wanton slaughter. That individual and his comrades were careering around in an uninsured and untaxed car without an NCT. Worse, gardaí had stopped them that night. I am not here to point the finger of blame at any individual garda and I do not know whether the gardaí did not bother to check or did not have the necessary equipment to find out. I have known of people with no tax whose cars were seized. That was proper order, but not having insurance is much worse.

The driver had a string of convictions. Following this, there was a calamity, although I will not say "of errors". There seems to have been a cover-up, with a lack of proper investigation and a lack of proper judicial process.

That is going on. I said to this woman "God bless you that you are so brave and so strong to expose that not only for your own son and family but for countless other families that are going through this throughout the State." That is going on. There is something rotten in the Department of Justice and Equality. One would want to believe there is ineptitude but there is not. It is systemic. I can give case after case. I had one case myself which was appalling. No one bats an eyelid. We listened to the Garda Síochána at the conference recently and to an American expert. I happened to hear him on the radio. He gave testimony about the lack of basic equipment that An Garda Síochána has to defend themselves, not to mention to defend us. I salute every man and woman there. The vast majority, 99%, are doing their best in the face of adversity but there is no management structure. There is mismanagement at an appalling rate right up the line, a lack of respect and a lack of accountability. The word accountability is not in this House. No one is held accountable for anything.

The individual who was driving the car had multiple previous convictions in the North and South. The Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, as Deputy McGuinness told the House, had informed the Garda Síochána in a letter. The Garda would have us believe it had no information. That is what people get every day and night that they go into a Garda station. Gardaí are overworked and the place is understaffed. I raised my own area in Clonmel with the Minister. It is pathetic that a town of that size has so few gardaí. People go to the counter and meet a recruit who does his or her best but there is no follow-up or follow-through anywhere in the country. Serious crimes are not properly investigated because gardaí do not have the resources or wherewithal and the Department of Justice and Equality will not deal with it. It beggars belief that this could continue to carry on with multiple families, such as Lucia and the O'Farrell family, who have been waiting since 2011. I have met her a number of times here. I salute her bravery and her strength of character to follow it up because it has to be changed. What will make it change? We talk about changing the HSE. I do not know if Ministers will not take responsibility and have it changed, such as free legal aid, which we raise every day. I am sure that individual in the court probably got free legal aid. I do not know the facts but he probably did. There were multiple charges involving bail. It is a farce. We raise it every day. Why are those individuals not tagged, with many crimes such as that? There is huge resistance to protecting the people, the ordinary citizens who pay their taxes and work. This man had gone to college and got his qualification. His family helped him. He loved to cycle. He went off to cycle. Who would have known that he would be mowed down by a vehicle like that? It is like a runaway train coming at a person. It dragged him a long way along the road. It is slaughter, not an accident. It is murder, if nothing else. Up and down the country, there are cases like this.

I hope that Lucia and her family will not mind if I bring in another case because I raised it here yesterday. I have raised it countless times. It is the case of two young men, the year before, on 23 May 2010. It was a beautiful sunny day like today. They were out fishing off Helvick Head and their boat was overturned by a pleasure craft and the two drowned. Mr. John O'Brien left three young kids and Mr. Pat Esmonde left one, and grieving families. If John O'Brien's sister, Anne-Marie, had not continued the battle to try to get justice and answers, there would have been no investigation. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was a joke. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, investigated it too. The gardaí never made a public appeal for witnesses. When I went to Dungarvan Garda station after months of trying to get a meeting with the superintendent, we were treated with contempt, disrespect and insulted. The investigation was closed. Anne-Marie went out two years later and put up posters in the town of Dungarvan. It is a lovely scenic town. Witnesses came forward who saw untoward activity on the sea that day. They spent seven months waiting for gardaí to take a statement. There is a Garda review ongoing and we are told that she is ringing every week. It was to be finished last September, October, November, December, January, February, March or May. This morning, she was told there would be a meeting on 18 June. It is disgraceful. There is no justice. Two young men lost their lives and left their families behind. I believe a major cover-up is going on in Dungarvan Garda station relating to that incident. Two young men went to their deaths. The inquest was told they were swimming in the water and one of them could not even swim. These are the lies we are told, the cover-up. There was no investigation. I raised the Marine Casualty Investigation Board with the Minister, Deputy Ross. He came to meet Anne-Marie in her house. The board has no powers to go to and investigate the scene. It does in the UK. It takes control of the investigation if it happens on water and the police are in second place. They are on land. There was no investigation. There was no public appeal. It is shameful. I hate saying this but it would be better investigated if a farmer lost some animals. It is disgraceful.

The gardaí at senior level have so much to answer for but many of their interests are in going up the ladder, not serving the people or looking after their troops on the ground. We saw last week in the Garda Representative Association that they have no proper equipment to do anything. They cannot get stab vests, Tasers, spray-guns or anything else to protect themselves in the face of adversity. We talk about sending out recruits. I salute all the recruits that want to join and go in to serve the noble cause of a country, and the many before them. Senior management is such as we see in the tribunal, in the McCabe case. Senior management seem to save the system, preserve face and allow issues such as Shane O'Farrell's, those two gentlemen near Helvick Head and countless others, to happen. Families have to try to seek justice and spend their own time and money, up against the might of the State. The first thing that is wheeled out is legal people against them.

I appeal to the Minister to try to make some inroad into the Department of Justice and Equality, to have some reforms there, and have some kind of accountability. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board is not the Minister's but it is another quango that needs to be reformed and changed. GSOC recommended, in the case of Dungarvan, that in future, if there is any loss at sea, a public appeal has to be made. That is all. GSOC is toothless, useless and fruitless. I was there myself with a complaint. It was a waste of time. It is just covering the system too. We need a body with teeth and powers. We have quango after quango, but they are serving nothing, just themselves much of the time, and cost taxpayers a fortune, with no justice for ordinary citizens. They need to be held accountable, including GSOC and many other agencies. They are not fit for purpose. We need to have outside, independent investigators and accountability. The case in Monaghan is an appalling vista, as are the cases in Dungarvan and many others. The case near Helvick Head is disgusting and the disrespect that their families got from the superintendent there is disgusting. They are out of control and in an area of their own. We will have no investigation.

Two years later, as I said, the sister put up posters herself and got four or five people to come forward. She gave the names in to the Garda Síochána. It is work that the Garda should be doing. It took the Garda seven months to take a statement. One of the people had died. In a film of a comedy of errors, one could laugh at it, but it is serious. Human life was lost, including Shane O'Farrell, these two gentlemen and many others. There is no accountability or justice, or even half an effort of an investigation. It was just shut down and covered up because big people owned this big boat, had contacts and money and power. It stinks to high heaven. It stinks that the Minister's predecessor presided over this lack of investigation, accountability and a cabal running the Garda station in Dungarvan. It is a cabal, not the ordinary people on the ground, doing their best. The power got to their heads. They are unaccountable. They were left unaccountable by the Minister and previous Ministers. There is a merry-go-round in the courts, with bail and previous convictions involved. It is a big industry for barristers. The free legal aid is disgusting.

That concludes statements on the fatal road traffic collision in County Monaghan. The statements today were of course about Shane O'Farrell.

He died tragically in that accident on 2 August 2011. Cuirim fáilte roimh chlann Uí Fearghaíl atá anseo linn sa Ghailearaí. Go ndéanfadh Dia trócaire ar a anam uasal dílis.