Full Public inquiry into death of Shane O’Farrell is required
“Regrettable that Minister would blame family for delays” – Matt Carthy TD
Sinn Féin TD for Cavan Monaghan, Matt Carthy, has said that it is imperative that the government begin preparations for a full independent public inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell, the actions of all relevant state bodies in response to his death and their respective roles in advance of and following his killing.
Deputy Carthy was speaking after the acting Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys answered questions in the Dáil from the Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Martin Kenny. Deputy Carthy said that it was deeply regrettable that the Minister suggested that Shane’s family were in any way responsible for the delays with the ongoing scooping enquiry being conducted by former judge Gerard Haughton.
Carthy said that the ongoing delays are evidence that preparations are required now for a full public enquiry into the matters concerned.
Shane O’Farrell, a young 23 year old Carrickmacross man, was killed in a hit and run on 2nd August 2011, by Zigimantas Gridziuska, a known criminal who had breached his bail conditions at the time and had 42 previous convictions in three different jurisdictions.
Speaking this week, Matt Carthy said:
“The scoping inquiry announced by the government was in itself a delaying mechanism. It was announced in early 2019 and we still do not have a final report. It followed a lengthy GSOC investigation.
“Shane O’Farrell will be dead ten years this coming August. It is a scandal that his family have been fighting every day since his tragic and avoidable death for truth and answers. They have encountered barriers every step of the way. These barriers have been presented by the agencies of the state that are charged with protecting citizens and delivering justice.
“There is now a Justice Minister in place from Shane’s constituency. She should now start preparing for an independent inquiry. The Dáil, by majority resolution, called for such an inquiry in June 2018.
“It is extremely disappointing that rather than initiating this public inquiry the government have sought to frustrate and delay this pursuit at every juncture.
“It is also deeply regrettable that in response to the Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson, Martin Kenny, Minister Humphreys suggested that the O’Farrell family are in any way responsible for the current delays with the current scoping exercise. She should withdraw that and apologise to the family.
“Anyone who has acquired a knowledge of this case will readily accept that the litany of failures on the part of the State in this case can only be adequately addressed through a full independent inquiry.
“The O’Farrell family have raised several serious concerns regarding the handling of this case by an Garda Síochána, by the prosecuting solicitor and barrister, by the DPP and by the courts services.
“These questions are so numerous and raise matters of such significance and concern that, in my view, there must now be a public inquiry that examines each of these concerns and addresses the matters raised so that measures can be put in place so that no other family is failed to the extent that the O’Farrell’s have been.
“Only a full independent inquiry can have any hope of delivering the answers to the questions to which the O’Farrell family deserve. There should be no further delays.
“Rather than add to the frustration and the pain of the O’Farrell family, Minister Humphreys can be the person that delivers truth and accountability. She should begin that process now”.
When asked in the Dáil by Deputies Matt Carthy and Martin Kenny if she would establish an independent public enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O’Farrell on 2 August 2011 and the roles of State agencies prior and subsequent to his death as previously agreed by Dáil and Seanad Éireann; Minister Humphreys replied:
“I would like to start by offering my own deepest sympathies to the parents and family of the late Shane O’Farrell. Shane’s death was a dreadful tragedy and a huge loss for his family and for his community.
“As the Deputy will be aware, a highly respected retired Judge, 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 as to 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.
“Judge Haughton furnished an interim report to the then Minister for Justice in November 2019. In his interim report, the Judge 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 and I expect to receive this from the Judge shortly.
“The Judge is naturally 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 the Judge to enable him to complete his work. The previous extensions to the timescale requested by the Judge have, as he has stated to the family, been necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Judge’s 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 the Judge is doing all that he can to ensure that the concerns which the family have raised with him during the process are followed through to the greatest extent possible. I understand that Judge Haughton has been in contact with the O’Farrell family throughout his scoping exercise”.
A follow up interaction between Sinn Féin’s Justice Spokesperson, Martin Kenny, and the Minister Heather Humphreys went as follows:
Martin Kenny: 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.
Minister Humphreys: 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.
Martin Kenny: 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.
Minister Humphreys: 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.
After the interaction Deputy Martin Kenny expressed outrage that the Minister would infer that the O’Farrell family were in any way responsible for the delays with the scoping exercise. He called on Minister Humphreys to withdraw the remarks and apologise to the family.