Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Inquiry into the Death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

113. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Justice the status of the Haughton scoping exercise regarding the circumstances of the killing of a person (details supplied) in view of her commitment to publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27644/21]

Shane O'Farrell was from County Monaghan in the Minister's constituency. In August 2011, he was struck and killed by a car driven by a man who was unlawfully at large. Both Houses of the Oireachtas passed motions calling for a full public inquiry into the circumstances of his death. In February 2019, the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, announced that there would be a scoping exercise. When will it be complete? There has been delay after delay. The family are anxious that this situation be resolved.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I wish to start by offering my deepest sympathies to the parents and family of the late Shane O'Farrell. Shane's death was a terrible tragedy and a huge loss for his family and community.

As the Deputy will be aware, a highly respected retired judge, Mr. Gerard Haughton, has been conducting a scoping exercise into the tragic circumstances surrounding Shane O'Farrell's death. The purpose of this exercise is to advise on whether any further investigation or inquiry beyond those already carried out is necessary and, if so, to advise on the form of such investigation or inquiry and its terms of reference.

Mr. Haughton furnished an interim report to the then Minister for Justice and Equality in November 2019. In his interim report, he stated that he would not restrict or limit Shane's family in their submissions to him or the nature and extent of the documentation they wished to furnish to him in his scoping exercise. I am awaiting the final report, which my Department expects to receive from Mr. Haughton shortly.

Mr. Haughton is completely independent in his work and I can neither intervene in nor seek to influence the outcome of the scoping exercise. My Department continues to provide all necessary assistance to him to enable him to complete his work. The previous extensions to the timescale requested by him have, as he has stated to the family, been necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic and his desire to be as comprehensive as possible in conducting the scoping exercise. While I genuinely regret that this process has taken significantly longer than any of us would like, I am also aware that Mr. Haughton is doing all that he can to ensure that the concerns that the family have raised with him during the process are followed through to the greatest extent possible. I understand that he has been in contact with the O'Farrell family throughout this scoping exercise.

I thank the Minister. The question to be answered here is how long is "shortly". The family have been waiting for more than a year. We expected that the report would be completed in May of last year, but we are now past May 2021. The scoping exercise will decide whether there needs to be a further inquiry. The Houses of the Oireachtas democratically voted on that. On the O'Farrell family's website, there is a long list of Deputies, Senators and MEPs who support a full public inquiry. What happened to Shane O'Farrell was a tragedy. Any Deputy who knows someone who was involved in a serious traffic accident knows the trauma that the family go through. The Minister can imagine how that trauma is multiplied when the person responsible should have been in custody at the time but was at large, and especially given how the case was treated afterwards.

What happened to Shane O'Farrell is one of the major scandals of the State. We are approaching its tenth anniversary. It is in the Minister's constituency that the family reside. It was in her constituency that the incident happened. I appeal to her not to worry about what happens to the scoping inquiry, but to commence the full public inquiry now. That is what needs to happen.

I am well aware of this case and have previously spoken to Lucia O'Farrell about it. I understand the grief that the family have gone through. It has been an horrific time for them.

The Deputy mentioned the delay in Mr. Haughton's report. I hope the Deputy will understand that Mr. Haughton is completely independent in conducting this exercise. It is not open for me as Minister to comment on any aspect of that work or the process of compiling the final report. My Department maintains regular contact with Mr. Haughton and has assured him that any assistance he requires to complete his final report will be made available. My officials recently contacted him to request an update. He responded to that request last week and has advised that he is awaiting further responses to his queries from another State body, GSOC, and the O'Farrell family.

It is welcome that the Minister has engaged with Mr. Haughton and that progress has been made, if progress is indeed being made. We need a set timescale now. We need to know exactly when the scoping exercise will be complete. I appeal to the Minister. In the coming weeks, she needs to put pressure on Mr. Haughton to get this completed. She needs to contact the family and ensure that the tenth anniversary of Shane O'Farrell's death does not pass without a full public inquiry being put in place.

We were in touch with Mr. Haughton last week. I understand that he is waiting on the family to revert to him with some answers. It is only right that we should give them the space to respond to him. I cannot interfere in the process, as it is ongoing. Like the Deputy, I hope that Mr. Haughton will make a recommendation as soon as possible.

Departmental Reviews

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

114. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the status of the implementation of the Hamilton review recommendations. [30409/21]

I am seeking an update on the recommendations of the Hamilton report, which calls for greater powers for investigating agencies to tackle economic crime and corruption.

The Deputy will be aware that the Justice Plan 2021 commits to tackling economic, or white collar, crime and corruption by implementing, in collaboration with other agencies, new anti-corruption and anti-fraud measures informed by the Hamilton review.

The report of the Hamilton review group, the Review of Structures and Strategies to Prevent, Investigate and Penalise Economic Crime and Corruption, was published in December 2020. It contains a number of recommendations focusing primarily on legislative, structural and resourcing measures to enhance the capacity of agency and multi-agency enforcement, and the prevention of corruption and white-collar crime.

The Minister, Deputy McEntee, published the cross-government plan on implementing the Hamilton review on 19 April 2021. The implementation plan sets out 22 actions to be completed by State agencies and Departments to progress the Hamilton report’s recommendations within the next year and a half, and sets timelines for the completion of these actions. The actions in the implementation plan include an advisory council against economic crime and corruption to advise and make proposals on strategic and policy responses that will be established at the centre of Government by the autumn; a multi-annual strategy to combat economic crime and corruption will be developed and submitted to Cabinet by next spring; and a resourcing plan for the long-term needs of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau will be submitted by An Garda Síochána to the Policing Authority and Department of Justice by this summer. Legislation to extend the surveillance powers currently available to An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners to other bodies with a remit to investigate economic crime and corruption is to be developed by the end of this year, among other legislative proposals.

I can inform the Deputy that work is under way in my Department to establish a cross-sector, partnership-based advisory council against economic crime and corruption to lead implementation of the action plan, including the establishment of a forum of operational representatives.

There are many positive things in the Hamilton report. It is about seeing it delivered on. I would prefer if there were a single agency but we will disagree on that. Of the 20 or so actions and business cases that were flagged for completion of quarter 2 of this year, how many of them will be achieved? Are they on target? If they are going to be implemented effectively, there must be collaboration between the various law enforcement agencies. How will that be achieved? How will existing agencies and public authorities be handled in terms of whether they are meeting each other and whether there is co-operation? Will there be co-operation and how will that be achieved? Is there a plan of action for the legislative process, because we do not want to see delays on that front?

The draft terms of reference for the advisory council and forum of senior representatives are at an advanced stage of development. Preparatory meetings of the relevant Departments and agencies have already taken place to finalise them for both groups. It is important to say that the actions contained in the implementation plan are not solely the responsibility of the Department of Justice and they will fall to be implemented by a number of other Departments and bodies. For instance, matters relating to the ethics in public office review are for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, while recommendations to strengthen competition law fall within the remit of the Tánaiste and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

On progressing the implementation of plan, since it was agreed by the Government in April significant progress has been made in implementing the structural and systemic recommendations. These recommendations lay the foundations for advancing many of the actions in the plan. Draft terms of reference for the advisory council and the forum of senior representatives have been prepared, and consultation on these texts are at an advanced stage.

The Hamilton report identified a significant number of issues in terms of agency resources such as personnel, ICT, and other issues. Are they going to be provided for in tandem or will we see them at the tail end of the process? Is that likely to be something which will be undertaken? Very often, we see legislation as policy but in fact it is about the implementation. How will that and procurement and recruitment be handled? I am concerned we will continue with a fragmented approach. Other jurisdictions have introduced an anti-corruption agency as opposed to various agencies. It is easier to hold one agency to account.

On the resources allocated to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, GNECB, I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that as of 30 April this year there are 89 garda members assigned to the GNECB, with the breakdown being one chief superintendent, two superintendents, two inspectors, 22 sergeants, and 62 garda. This represents an increase of 17 members deployed to the bureau since the end of February this year. Further staff are due to be assigned to the bureau in 2021, following interviews held in 2020. The reassignment of all garda staff was impacted by Covid-19 demands. The allocation of garda staff to specialist units, including the GNECB, has recently commenced. Therefore, resourcing will be supplied.