11.11.21 – John McGuinness – Dáil Éireann debate – Road Traffic and Roads Bill 2021: Second Stage


I would point as an example of complete failure of the system to the case of Shane O’Farrell, which has often been raised in this House and has all to do with a traffic accident, a hit and run, murder, one might call it, on the roadside and the devastation for a family. In fact, the previous Dáil decided that there should be a public inquiry into that case. When one examines the reasons for a broad well-meaning public inquiry, it has to do with how the courts function. If someone appears in court – and it is ten years since Shane O’Farrell’s death – is convicted of a crime and if that person is to be jailed, then one would expect that the law would ensure that person goes to jail for that particular crime. It is very difficult to understand in Shane O’Farrell’s case how the system dealt with numerous convictions in the courts against a man who eventually killed Shane on the roadside. He should have been in jail. There was a failure of the courts and of An Garda to implement the decision of the court. If this legislation is to change anything, it needs to interlink with the courts system to ensure that the likes of that oversight or error does not happen again.

Likewise, there needs to be a connection between North and South because, referring to Shane O’Farrell’s case, the conviction of the man involved related to numerous offences in 2011 in the Border area. We need to connect with the authorities in Northern Ireland to ensure that in future, should these road offences be committed, there is a flow of information between North and South. My understanding is that on one occasion, the man who killed Shane O’Farrell was to report to his local Garda station when, in fact, he was in jail in Northern Ireland. The questions have to be asked in the context of legislation: how did that happen and why? Will this legislation or any amendment that might be required to it be able to deal with that and with the relationship with the police Northern Ireland?

Likewise Part 4 introduces amendments relating to information about insurance. This goes back to the policing of the legislation. In Shane O’Farrell’s case, this man was stopped on the roadside, he was known to have had the various convictions, there was a question mark over the condition of the vehicle he was driving and whether it was roadworthy, tax and insurance, yet the vehicle was not taken from him, was not impounded and it seems as if there was no consequences in that regard. This Bill needs to address that by ensuring there will be consequences and that An Garda are empowered, or if they need to be further empowered, to take these types of vehicles and to impound them. I do not understand why that happened.

The other issue is the national car test certificate, as it was referred to. There was no certificate. We can have all of the laws and the indicators on the windscreen as to tax, insurance and so on, but if these matters are not policed, then we will not get the results that we want. If motorists are found by An Garda to have broken the law, we need to ensure that the Courts Service puts in place the proper tracking system so that the crime can be picked up and the person who might be sentenced goes to jail and is taken off the road to prevent the type of accidents that killed Shane O’Farrell.

I am using that case because so many things went wrong on the part of the State in it, even in the Director of Public Prosecution’s, DPP’s, office.

This legislation should look at how, for example, that man who killed Shane O’Farrell got the type of legal representation that he received. How did that man get the type of favourable consideration in the court that he got

I examined some of the statistics around Shane O’Farrell’s case. The person involved never served a six-month sentence. Relating to this, some 31,422 crimes were committed by those on bail. That equated to 604 per week, a figure which increased by 70% the following year. If legislation is being properly policed and managed through the courts, that type of statistic should not exist.