Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Heritage Sites

As someone who has been lucky enough to visit High Island in recent years, I am a rare breed. I landed there on a very calm day and it is a spectacular island. On its southern side are monastic settlements on which very detailed excavations have been done. The headstones of the monks are incredible. It is a tremendously interesting and important site. It is similar to the Skelligs in terms of archaeological and historical importance.

When I landed on the island I also discovered that really important scientific work is going on there. University College Cork has been doing some really groundbreaking and important ecological and scientific assessments. Researchers have been tagging and monitoring the very significant populations of Manx shearwaters and storm petrels. These are very large populations which are hugely important in a European context because of the numbers and rarity of the birds. The research being done is also very important in a wider context because, in tracking the movements, breeding and ecology of the birds, the whole north-west Atlantic is monitored. It is hard to believe it considering the size of the birds, but on occasion they fly out almost 1,700 km to feed. The monitoring, management and assessment of that tells us a massive amount about what is happening in the north-west Atlantic, where climate is changing, where cold water is coming down from the Arctic and where the Gulf Stream itself may be weakening. These are very large populations of very rare and critical seabirds. They are one of the birds which are most threatened. The whole issue of protecting biodiversity is critical to the Minister's Department. This area of scientific research is of critical international and European importance.

The island has no possible use other than the maintenance and monitoring of the archaeological, ornithological and other ecological sites.

A house could not be put on it because it is not accessible, except on a really calm day. A helicopter pad or any other landing system would ruin the ecology. Richard Murphy, the poet, owned it briefly at a time when he sailed in and out of Cleggan to Inishbofin. He wanted to give it to the State but my understanding, based on his biography and from talking to people who knew him, is that he grew frustrated at the slow response of the State and sold it to a local person. That person has been very good in supporting the scientific and archaeological research that has been done and has provided an excellent caretaker role. The island is now for sale and it is important that the State steps up to the mark and purchases the land so that it is protected. The island is of acute ecological importance and a State purchase would also be an investment in our archaeological heritage and our scientific research system. It would not be expensive relative to other projects the State engages in but it is important. It may require further investment, for example, if we were to have some limited tourism capability for visitors to an amazing monastic site. That might take the pressure of the Skelligs and other locations but we would have to do it very sensitively in respect of how we would get landing and so on.

We should support UCC in its critical scientific research. We should make sure we protect these really important populations of sea birds which tell us a lot about what is going on in the north Atlantic. Doing so would send out a signal to our people and to the wider world that we are monitoring what is happening in the north Atlantic and it is in our care.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I note his comments on biodiversity. As he knows, today and tomorrow I am hosting a national biodiversity conference in Dublin Castle. The Government takes this issue very seriously.

High Island is a spectacular island; there is no doubt about that. It contains an early medieval monastery dedicated to St. Féichín. This is a national monument which is in my ownership as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The church is located in a small enclosure, which lies in the northern half of the ecclesiastical enclosure on High Island. It comprises a conserved single-cell church, dedicated to St Féichín, and is one of the smallest of the Atlantic island churches.

As the Deputy may be aware, the day-to-day care of this national monument falls under the remit of the Office of Public Works on behalf of my Department. The OPW works in close co-operation with the national monuments service of my Department, which has overall responsibility to ensure the long-term conservation of the national monument. In the 1990s, a comprehensive State-funded excavation and conservation programme was undertaken on the monastic site and the results were published in 2014 in my Department's archaeological monograph series. As a national monument in State care, the monastery as it stands is fully protected under the provisions of the National Monuments Acts. Any works at or in its vicinity may only be carried out with ministerial consent under section 14 of the Act. There are also a number of recorded monuments on the property which are protected under national monuments legislation as well. These monuments are in private ownership.

In the interests of the preservation, conservation, management and presentation of the built and archaeological heritage, the State sometimes may wish to acquire certain heritage properties and monuments. From time to time, these may come onto the open market, may be bequeathed to the State or may be offered to the State for purchase or free of cost. I might also add that there have been no recent invitations to our Department to purchase the site from anybody. In addition, lands surrounding or in proximity to national monuments in State care often reside in private ownership. In certain cases, improved protection of the monument, or access to the monument, may be possible if the State was to acquire such additional lands. There has not been any recent approach in respect of this particular monument. I must inform the Deputy that such acquisition is the exception rather than the norm and that where a monument is already adequately protected and there is no exceptional case for acquisition in order to improve access, the case for purchase may not be pressing. In the case of High Island, the national monument and the recorded monuments are already well protected, in our view. Public access, even if the whole property were in public ownership, would continue to be hazardous and the site is unsuitable for large-scale visitor exploration. Additionally, value for money principles must be carefully considered where any acquisition is proposed.

The national monuments in State care already number some 1,000 sites at over 760 locations around the country and these command considerable resource commitments in terms of both funding and personnel allocation. In addition, there are in excess of 120,000 monuments listed in the record of monuments and places that are not maintained by the State. Suffice it to say that while I understand what the Deputy is saying, there is no exceptional case in this instance that would merit an acquisition of this nature.

I believe it is an exceptional case. There was an approach made by Richard Murphy and he was spurned by the Government of the day, long before either of our times. I am making the approach now because I believe it is of great archaeological importance. The State has invested significantly in the restoration and maintenance of the site, which is one of the smallest and not insignificant monastic settlements, which is an important asset for the State. There is at present a benign ownership system under which the current owner has co-operated and facilitated the management of the site and of scientific research on the island. That could be lost. The island is for sale today. If we do not buy it there is a real risk that someone else will, who may have a different perspective on how it should be managed. It would be a tragedy if what is exceptional about this island was lost to the State.

The Minister has attended a conference and no doubt has spoken very good words on the issue of biological protection. However, her answer did not refer to the second reason I cited for purchase of the island. I understand there are up to 3,000 breeding pairs of storm petrels and a very significant population of Manx shearwaters. The most detailed analysis in recent years has been done by University College Cork to show this is actually a very important scientific site. What is happening to these sea bird populations, which are the most threatened and most in decline, indicates what is happening not just in the local area but right out to the Atlantic. It is cheaper for us to buy this island and maintain that scientific analysis than to send ships out with monitoring systems to research what is happening in the north Atlantic. We can do it here by tagging the sea birds as UCC is doing. This is very important. It is exceptional. I am making the approach to the Minister today to encourage her to buy it and protect the scientific and archaeological sites, allow for access and get it into public ownership.

The Deputy can understand that if there was to be an approach made to the Department, it would have to be done in a formal way, not on the floor of the House, although I appreciate the Deputy's offering. I reiterate that there has not been any reasoned approach to us to purchase this particular area. It is also important to say that the Department will support all initiatives to study ecology, including those of UCC. The State is only in a position to acquire, maintain, conserve and present a limited number of heritage properties and monuments. As I said earlier, it is important to stress that any property acquisition by the State should be regarded as an exception rather than the norm. The Deputy mentioned birds a number of times; protected species are also safeguarded by the Department, as the Deputy is aware. The National Monuments Acts provide a legislative basis for the protection of archaeology in the State, whether or not the monuments are in State ownership. Furthermore, the Archaeological Survey of Ireland maps and updates the data on our archaeological resources on a regular basis. Information on more than 140,000 monuments across the country is currently stored in the Department's sites and monuments record. The National Monuments Acts allow me to place a preservation order on any other important archaeological site or monument that may be at risk.

As such, there is an extensive protection, as I outlined, for archaeological heritage in the State without a need for acquisition of sites, except in the most exceptional of cases. Acquisition of the whole of High Island would require considerable resource commitment, not just on the part of the Department but also from the Office of Public Works. Whether or not the island is privately owned, my Department will continue to protect the national monument there. It should be said that access to the island is extremely difficult and therefore any acquisition would bring very little benefit in terms of access to the monuments for visitors.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Expenditure

The Minister of State may be aware that Irish Water and the Government is proposing to locate a regional sewage plant on a 40 acre site at Clonshaugh in north County Dublin. The planned development will cost €1 billion. It is four times the size of Croke Park and has an outflow pipe which is located off Portmarnock through a special area of conservation at the Baldoyle-Portmarnock estuary. According to the plans that have been submitted and which are now with An Bord Pleanála, sewage will only be treated to the minimum secondary level. At the very least, my colleague, Deputy Haughey, and I, along with Councillor Eoghan O'Brien and the 14,000 residents of the area, insist that the highest levels of modern treatment are applied. I note that the size of the plant has been reduced from around 800,000 or 900,000 personal equivalent, PE, to 500,000 PE. This is due to the fact that there have been over 14,000 observations through the public consultation process, which has actually been useful.

I held a meeting with Irish Water last June in which I was informed that its priority is the continuing upgrade of the Ringsend facility, bringing new technologies to that plant and increasing capacity there. Does the Minister of State have an update on that? I, along with many residents, are particularly opposed to this type of development and believe that a series of localised plants is the way forward. There are already 15 plants in Fingal which process the waste where it is actually generated. We do not want to go down the road of a €1 billion to €1.4 billion project, with an orbital sewer with a massive regional wastewater treatment plant. Our main objections are on the grounds of environmental damage and potential damage, damage to the quality of life for residents in Clonshaugh, Portmarnock and the surrounding areas and damage to the fishing and horticultural sector in the area. The cost to the taxpayer is also fundamental. I have repeatedly asked for a cost-benefit analysis on this project. Well before Deputy English became the Minister of State I asked Deputy Howlin, who was Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, to carry out a cost-benefit analysis on this plant. He promised that would be done. My understanding is that has not been done. I know that the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is not here today, but I am glad the Minister of State, Deputy English, is here as a representative of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Can he inform the House how much has been spent on this project to date? It is important that we keep an eye on large capital projects. The Government will understand how important that is when we take into account the debacle of the national children's hospital. We want to ensure that, whatever happens with the development of additional wastewater treatment plant facilities in the area, be it the large regional plants we do not support or the smaller, localised ones that would serve 80,000 or 90,000 PE, we have a handle on the costs.

I would be greatly obliged if the Minister of State could advise what has been spent to date and what the Government's plans are for the Irish Water strategic funding plan 2019 to 2024. Has the Government allocated further funding in order to bring this plant to the construction phase, bearing in mind that An Bord Pleanála has granted residents, myself, Deputy Haughey and Councillors Eoghan O'Brien and Seán Paul Mahon an oral hearing on 20 March? I would like to know what the expenditure has been so far, what capital funding allocation has been made for this year and if there are figures available for next year.

I will try to answer some of the questions raised by the Deputy. I do not have all of the details he has asked for because some of the issues he has raised are different from what was initially proposed to be discussed. I have no problem in getting further information for the Deputy and if we have to organise a meeting with the Deputy, the Department and Irish Water I will be happy to facilitate it. We are an open book on this issue.

The greater Dublin drainage project involves the development of a new regional wastewater treatment facility at Clonshaugh and associated drainage infrastructure to serve the growing population of the north Dublin area. The current estimated cost of delivering the project is in the region of €500 million over the full life cycle of the project, including the planning stage. I do not have a breakdown of all the costs for the Deputy; I know he wanted the expenditure for the project so far, including planning costs. I do not have them, but I can try and get them at a later stage.

Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local level. Irish Water, as a single national water services authority, takes a strategic, nationwide approach to asset planning and investment and meeting customer requirements. Irish Water delivers its services in accordance with its water services strategic plan published in October 2015. This sets out a high-level strategy over 25 years to ensure the provision of clean, safe drinking water, effective management of wastewater, environmental protection and support for economic and social development. The first national water services policy statement, prepared in line with the Water Services Acts, which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, launched on 21 May 2018, outlines a clear direction to strategic planning and decision making on water and wastewater services in Ireland. It identifies key policy objectives and priorities for the delivery of water and wastewater services in Ireland over the period to 2025. It provides the context within which necessary funding and investment plans by Irish Water are framed and agreed.

On 7 November 2018, the Minister, Deputy Murphy, approved Irish Water’s strategic funding plan for 2019 to 2024 which sets out Irish Water’s multi-annual strategic funding requirement of €11 billion to 2024. This comprises €6.1 billion investment in infrastructure and assets and €4.9 billion in operating costs. This significant multi-billion euro investment programme is to ensure the continued operation, repair and upgrading of the country’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support social and economic development across the State and continued care of the water environment.

Irish Water's strategic funding plan is also subject to economic regulatory review by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, which will consider the efficiency of its investment proposals. The strategic funding plan sets out the financial plan for capital investments to support Irish Water’s strategic objectives in order to deliver improvements to water services. I understand from Irish Water that it made an application for strategic infrastructure development for the greater Dublin drainage project to An Bord Pleanála on 20 June 2018. An Bord Pleanála then held a period of statutory public consultation and it is anticipated that the board will commence an oral hearing on the project shortly. I gather that the Deputy has been involved in that process and is participating fully on that.

The Deputy references a cost-benefit analysis. I assume that will be part of an oral hearing discussion. Generally, when these projects are brought forward, alternative options have to be considered. Costs and environmental impacts are considered in that, so I imagine that issue will be dealt with there. I will certainly pursue that further for the Deputy in the meantime and provide any extra information I can on that too.

I know the Minister of State is not the direct line Minister for this project, but I have to say with respect that the question has not been answered at all. I asked for the costs incurred to date. The Dáil should receive an answer to that question. This is a large capital project and the only cost I was ever able to get an estimate for was in the region of €1 billion to €1.4 billion. That is a lot of money. We need to get a handle on the costs that have been incurred to date. I remain absolutely opposed to this type of development and I really do believe that the Government should go back and look at what it has proposed. The proposal is now four, five or six years in existence. It proposes to treat waste to the very basic standard of secondary treatment rather than tertiary. The model we are proceeding with is flawed. Thousands of residents in the area agree. These people are not approaching this matter from a "not in my back yard" position, but rather as residents who already have 15 wastewater treatment plants in the area. This plant is effectively to become a treatment plant for all of the waste in the greater Dublin area. The waste will be piped through an orbital sewer around the M50 and into a wastewater treatment plant at Clonshaugh - a 50 acre site - and then out through a special area of conservation from the Baldoyle estuary. One could not make this up. This would not be planned in this way now. I am calling for a real cost-benefit analysis.

I am also calling for those responsible to halt now and look at it before we have a situation like what has happened at St. James's Hospital where the State has run away with itself and wasted €1.4 billion or €1.5 billion that was not actually required. Will the Minister of State ask officials within the Department and Irish Water to give us the exact spend to date on the project and details of the estimated cost of delivery?

I am mindful that the Deputy was probably chatting to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle when I outlined the position. I do not have the actual planning costs that he is looking for. What happens is Irish Water is given an envelope of funding to deliver the project. It is monitored through the Irish Water strategic plan which is presented to the Government and the regulator. I know from dealing with the regulator and different utility organisations that have brought forward proposals during the years that regulators are fairly strict when it comes to costs which they monitor quite well. Often they reduce the initial asking costs also. There is a fairly good system and protocol in place to deal with that aspect.

The Deputy is looking for particular figures. I will see if I can get them for him from Irish Water. It is the body responsible and it is not something the Department deals with on a day to day basis. Irish Water has statutory responsibility for planning and decision-making on the type of project that will proceed.

The Deputy has raised questions about whether this is the best way to proceed with the treatment facility. That is something we can certainly look into for him. I am not familiar with the details, but I will certainly get the details because, to be honest, the Deputy has raised my interest in the matter now.

It is also part of the planning process Irish Water is going through. I have been attended many oral hearings during the years. The details will be dealt with and come out. It is an important part of the decision-making process. Often on a project of this nature the first step is for the organisation responsible to prove that the project is necessary and that there is no better way of doing something. Irish Water will be given the job to use taxpayers' money effectively to ensure the best treatment facilities are built to the highest standards and available within a certain budget. The company will have to manage that process and ensure value for money, as well as ensuring the best environmental decision is made. I presume it will all be teased out during the oral hearing and the planning process. If there is any information I can obtain for the Deputy in the meantime, I will get it. I will be happy to do so.

Garda Deployment

I assume the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, is taking this matter. As a Deputy from Cork, he will be familiar with the constituency I represent – Cork South-Central. It is primarily an urban constituency and takes in the south side of Cork city. It includes some large suburbs that are growing rapidly such as Douglas, Carrigaline and Passage West.

The Garda district headquarters is located in Togher. It is the only 24-hour station in the Garda district. When the other Garda stations in the district are closed - that happens to be most of the time - all telephone calls are diverted to Togher Garda station. Stations in the other densely populated parts of the constituency such as Carrigaline and Douglas Garda stations have limited opening hours. They are not always open, even during the designated hours when they are meant to be open. That is because the gardaí who are on duty and meant to be in the station may be called away to an incident elsewhere in the district.

The general public draws confidence from a Garda station being open, ideally on a 24/7 basis. Garda management often tells me that it prefers to use resources for patrolling, rather than having gardaí within a station. I accept that is an operational decision for Garda management. However, I absolutely believe we need longer station opening hours within the Togher district in the main population areas and the suburbs about which I have spoken.

In the area I represent there have been a spate of burglaries. We have had organised gangs roaming through housing estates checking to see if cars are unlocked. If they are, they are stealing whatever they can from them. There has been damage caused to private and public property such as playgrounds in the area. Many people have captured footage on their private closed circuit television systems of people trying to open their vehicles or walking around to the side or the back of homes. A serious assault took place on the main street of Carrigaline last Saturday night and a man was seriously injured. I wish him well in his recovery. Many people have since been in touch to express real concern about the lack of a Garda presence in the area.

Garda management openly tells me that it simply does not have the resources to provide foot patrols. The days of gardaí walking along the streets in my area and perhaps elsewhere throughout the country seem to be gone. In Carrigaline where I live there is one community garda who is visible and out and about a good deal. The other gardaí simply do not have the time or resources to do so. They are stretched to breaking point. This has had a direct impact on morale within the force.

The issue of resources is key. Let us consider Carrigaline as an example. There are five units with two members each. There are three detective gardaí and three sergeants. On any given weekend night one unit of two gardaí may be serving the town. The reality is that they could be called away at any point. Frequently they are called away to another part of the Garda district to deal with an incident. We could as a result actually have no Garda presence within the town. We absolutely need longer station opening hours and more gardaí. People should not have to call to a Garda station on multiple occasions to have a form signed, yet that is the practice in my area which is rapidly expanding and experiencing high population growth.

I understand a new policing divisional model is being prepared. Extra resources have been requested for the area by Garda management. The Minister of State is the person responsible. I call on him to take up the issue with Garda management - the top brass within the Garda - and deliver extra resources to the area.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who is spending a good deal of time in the Seanad dealing with the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill. He asked me to stand in for him because he was unsure whether he would be able to make it and did not wish to delay proceedings. He has asked me to reiterate to the House that the deployment of Garda resources, including personnel, to specific areas is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. I imagine the Deputy appreciates this and that we can all appreciate we cannot interfere with that decision in any way.

The Commissioner has spoken publicly about issues such as protecting the most vulnerable. He has highlighted that his priority is a policing model that will provide the best outcomes for communities. The distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored and a distribution model is used that takes into account all relevant factors, including population, crime trends and overall policing needs at local level. It is then a matter for the divisional chief superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of the area and its specific needs. This applies equally in both rural and urban areas. I imagine the Commissioner and his management team will be noting what is said in this debate in the Chamber.

I emphasise that is not appropriate to simply determine the allocation of Garda resources on the basis of population size alone. This fails to take account of, among other things, the fact that crime levels and types can vary significantly in communities of similar population size. The Deputy will appreciate that an increase in the opening hours of any Garda station would necessitate the deployment of additional Garda personnel to indoor administrative duties. These gardaí may be employed more effectively on outdoor policing duties. The Deputy alluded to this point in his contribution.

The Minister has advised that the matter of opening hours of sub-district stations is subject to continual review and alteration by Garda management in the context of policing priorities and the resources available. The Commissioner has informed the Minister that on 31 January, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the strength of the Cork city division was 703, with 128 gardaí assigned to the Togher Garda district. There are also 38 Garda reserves and 80 civilians attached to the division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. A total of 62 were assigned to the Cork city division, including 15 probationer gardaí assigned to Togher Garda station. The Commissioner has informed the Minister that it is his intention to recruit a total of 600 trainee gardaí in 2019, with a net total of 600 Garda staff. The recruitment of the additional Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained gardaí from administrative duties to the front-line duties for which they were trained. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, with the new recruits, will be beneficial in protecting communities.

The Commissioner has been provided with an additional €100 million in 2019, bringing his total budget to almost €1.8 billion. This substantial investment will allow the accelerated recruitment programme to continue in tandem with the deployment of new and leading edge technology to support front-line gardaí in carrying out their work in delivering a visible, effective and responsive police service to communities across all Garda divisions, including the Cork city division in 2019 and beyond.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. Looking at the figures he provided, he said 2,400 new recruits qualified since September 2014, of which 62 were assigned to the Cork city division. This is the division representing the second largest city in our State. Some 62 out of 2,400 mean that less than 3% of the newly qualified gardaí have been assigned to the whole division of Cork which includes to the Togher district, and that includes places like Douglas and Carrigaline. We are not getting our fair share. Let us be honest about it.

The Minister of State said that the allocation of resources is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner. Recently, the Minister for Justice and Equality visited west Cork and he was surrounded by Fine Gael Oireachtas Members and Fine Gael councillors.

There were announcements by his colleagues on the reopening of Ballinspittle and that Kinsale Garda station would be manned 24-7, all coinciding with his visit. The reality is the Minister acts hand-in-glove with the Garda Commissioner and there is a tie-in there, about which there is no doubt.

Gardaí who have been assigned to the Togher district tell me that they are shocked when they compare the very limited resources in that area with resources elsewhere. There is no doubt that the Togher district, which includes those very large suburbs, is not getting a fair deal as to resources. There is a very real concern within those communities, and I am glad the Minister is here for the end of this debate.

The Minister might say he hears this everywhere but he should check it out. I assure him that he will find that that district is not getting the resources it should be getting. I accept population is not the only determinant but it is certainly a significant factor. This is an area of very rapid population growth and the suburbs are growing very quickly. We need more Garda visibility which we do not have. I ask the Minister to convey these views to the Garda Commissioner so that when he is making decisions on the allocation of resources, these points will be taken on board.

I assure the Deputy that the Commissioner notes what happens in these Houses as it relates to the Garda Síochána. His management team is concerned about any requests made here and takes them into account. I also assure the Deputy that working with communities to tackle public disorder and reducing anti-social behaviour remains a key priority for the Garda Síochána. Garda visibility is very important and the Government remains committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen the community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime. The joint policing committees have a big role to play in this as well. They facilitate consultation, co-operation and discussion and they bring matters to the attention of gardaí at a high level locally, local authorities and elected local representatives. This active and constructive engagement is very important and should be encouraged and supported.

At the heart of the concerns expressed by the Deputy is the relationship between the communities and the local gardaí. That is very important. The Programme for A Partnership Government underlines the importance of community policing in responding to the concerns and expectations of urban and rural communities. The Government is fully committed to implementing that commitment and over the last few years, unprecedented resources have been made available to ensure that the Commissioner and his management team have the resources necessary to deliver a modern policing service to communities throughout the country, including the Togher district.

The Deputy can rest assured that the Garda Síochána will have noted to debate this evening, as it notes all these debates, and will make its decisions independently, as it is mandated to do.

Public Inquiries

Níl ach seal gairid agam. I will be as direct as possible. It has been clearly demonstrated that Shane O'Farrell was failed by multiple arms of the State's justice agencies. His tragic death was avoidable had those agencies done their jobs correctly. The Dáil and the Seanad have voted in favour of a public inquiry. The Minister has put together a process, or a scoping exercise, under Mr. Justice Gerard Haughton. As has been demonstrated by the journalist, Michael Clifford, this was not considered necessary when an inquiry was put together for the Bill Kenneally case or the IBRC case or to investigate the recording of phone conversations in Garda stations. A number of examples can be provided.

The need for a public inquiry here was clearly demonstrated and the Minister should have proceeded directly to that. I am concerned about the terms of reference that he outlined for Mr. Justice George Haughton. He should have consulted with the family before giving them to the judge and I will pick up on some of those points in my supplementary question.

We all watched Shane O'Farrell's mother, Lucia, speak with great sadness and eloquence on "Prime Time" last week and make an unanswerable case for a full public inquiry. Both Houses of the Oireachtas have voted for that and overwhelmingly want it. This young man would still be alive had the criminal justice system and certain gardaí done their jobs properly. That is the crux of the matter. Zigmantas Gridzuiska was driving the car that killed Shane on 2 August 2011. Just one hour before he killed him, driving a car that had no NCT and no valid insurance, he was stopped by gardaí and had been allowed to continue driving. We know that he breached bail 18 times, had 42 previous convictions and a history of heroin abuse.

We have had several scoping exercises on the Stardust, which was in my constituency. Although I know there is an eight or a nine week timeframe, we should have gone directly to an inquiry. This family has been looking for justice for eight years. Please listen to them and commit to a full public inquiry.

It is seven and a half years since Shane O'Farrell was unnecessarily killed. There is indisputable consensus in this House that Shane O'Farrell would be alive, and perhaps nobody would have heard of him, if there had not been a systematic catalogue of failures by all parties, including the police and the courts. What the family have always looked for is accountability, truth and justice, and they form very simple narratives. This scoping exercise will not get to that truth. The truth will only come out through a public inquiry. The need for a public inquiry on the unnecessary death of Shane O'Farrell will come out after the scoping exercise.

On 12 June 2018, Fianna Fáil introduced a motion in the Dáil calling for a commission of investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O'Farrell in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, in 2011. Lucia O'Farrell, her husband and her daughters have fought tirelessly to seek justice for their son and brother. The State has failed them in the manner in which Shane's death was investigated and was prosecuted and it is continuing to fail the O'Farrell family in the manner in which the complaints surrounding the investigation and the prosecution are being handled by GSOC. We understand from Lucia and her family that they were disappointed by the non-engagement with them on the terms of reference for the scoping inquiry, but I am very hopeful, which is to give the Minister some credit, that it indicates he will give full support to the Oireachtas vote last year on the establishment of a public inquiry.

I know the circumstances surrounding the tragic and untimely death of Shane O'Farrell of concern to all Members of this House. The case has been discussed here on many occasions, along with the subsequent investigations that have taken place into the events surrounding this dreadful accident. Shane O'Farrell was a much-loved son and brother and his death has clearly been devastating for his family to whom I once again extend my sincere condolences. The House will recall the outcome of the GSOC criminal investigation of complaints related to this tragedy. Members may not be aware that GSOC recently completed its disciplinary investigation and this has resulted in a recommendation to the Garda Commissioner that disciplinary action be taken in relation to three members of An Garda Síochána. Clearly, this is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, and the Garda Commissioner alone, and it will now take its proper course. I do not propose to comment further on that.

In June 2018, as the Deputy Smyth said, the Dáil passed a motion calling for a public inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell.

The motion called for the actions of the Garda, the DPP, the courts and GSOC to be examined as part of such an inquiry. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I am particularly cognisant of the independence of each of these criminal justice bodies and it is imperative that their independence be respected.

When the Dáil passed its motion, I began examining how we could give effect to the intention of the House without undermining the work of GSOC. My officials began to explore options with the Attorney General. At the earliest opportunity following the completion of the GSOC disciplinary investigation at the end of January, I appointed a respected and experienced former judge of the District Court, Judge Gerard Haughton, to carry out a scoping exercise into the circumstances of the death of Shane O'Farrell, including the criminal prosecution arising from the road traffic incident, the independent review mechanism examination of the case and the investigations by GSOC.

I met the O'Farrell family two weeks ago to outline my proposals. While family members objected to the process of a scoping exercise, they agreed to consider the proposed terms of reference and to engage with Judge Haughton on same. I thank them for that. Judge Haughton has already contacted the family to commence that important engagement.

It is open to Judge Haughton to propose changes to the terms of reference to me. Following his review, he will advise me on any remaining unanswered questions that should be the subject of further inquiry or investigation and, if so, the most appropriate manner in which that investigation might take place.

I wish to state in clear terms that the Government is not opposed to the possibility of a further inquiry into this case if that is what Judge Haughton recommends. I have not placed any restriction on him in that regard. Like my Government colleagues and everyone on this side of the House, I wish to see questions answered to the satisfaction of the O'Farrell family. We are all in agreement on that, and I say that in the presence of the Chair of the Committee on Justice and Equality, who also has an interest in this matter.

I thank the Deputies for giving me the opportunity to set out how I propose to proceed in this tragic case. I want to deal with it in such a way as to find answers to questions that have remained unanswered to date.

I hope that the judge revises the terms of reference, given that there are difficulties with them. They once again take the approach of examining the elements that have not already been investigated, notwithstanding the fact that the family is dissatisfied with a number of those investigations, in particular the GSOC investigation. This is a piecemeal approach. Terms 1 and 2 are focused on those areas of failure that have not already been examined while terms 3 to 6, inclusive, hinge on those first two terms.

I hope that this exercise allows the family to get justice but I also hope that the terms of reference are revised. The Minister should have consulted the family on them before publishing them.

If Judge Haughton asked the Minister to move straight to establishing a full public inquiry under the 2004 legislation, would the Minister do so? The four-year GSOC investigation was unsatisfactory and we know little about the issue of disciplinary action. We need justice for Shane, his mother, Lucia, and the whole family. There is no need for a scoping inquiry. We should be able to proceed to a commission of investigation into the tragic death of this talented and highly regarded young man that has decimated his community and family.

As my colleagues have stated, this issue has become so protracted that it now compels the O'Farrell family. The family has always wanted truth and justice. Will the Minister be compelled to establish a public inquiry if Judge Haughton calls for one?

It is clear that the GSOC inquiry has been a failure for the O'Farrell family. It is six years since the process began, yet the O'Farrells have no more answers than they did when it started. All that can be gleaned from the report is that the Government needs to step up and establish a commission of investigation so that we as a nation can learn from this awful tragedy and nothing like this ever happens again.

I have listened carefully to the points raised by Deputies Ó Laoghaire, Broughan, Gino Kenny and Smyth. I have already mentioned the independence of the criminal justice bodies that are engaged in various aspects of the O'Farrell case. It is critical that I make it clear that legal difficulties may arise in seeking to look at actions by the courts, which are independent under the Constitution, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution and GSOC, both of which are independent under law. We must have regard to the constitutional separation of powers where the courts are concerned. Where the DPP is concerned, the law is designed to prevent inappropriate interference with the office, particularly in cases where prosecutorial decisions are concerned. Therefore, any inquiry must at all times respect these boundaries.

I have initiated a scoping exercise to examine the various matters. This is a reasonable and responsible approach to take. There are various precedents of scoping exercises being carried out prior to the setting up of inquiries or tribunals. It is good governance to allow a scoping exercise by a legal expert to determine the net issues that might require further examination. Indeed, the exercise on the part of Judge Haughton will also be charged with responsibility for reviewing changes that have already been made to the law, practices and procedures in respect of the administration of bail and bench warrants and the extent to which those changes have or have not addressed gaps in the systems since the death of Shane O'Farrell.

I am acutely conscious that at the heart of this tragedy is a family in pain. I am very much aware that this family is searching for answers. Its members have the sympathy and support of the Government and everyone else in this House. Once again, I want to extend my sincere condolences to the O'Farrell family and assure the House, including all of the Deputies who have raised the issue today, that a process is firmly in place to examine how best to give effect to the Dáil motion that was passed.