14.06.18 – Seanad – Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn – Statements on the Death of Shane O’Farrell

14.06.18 Seanad Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn addresses Seanad Éireann on death of Shane O’Farrell

Senator P. Mac Lochlainn: “I first met with Lucia and her husband, Jim, some years ago when I was the justice spokesperson for my party. As a councillor, a Deputy and now as a Senator I met many families over the years who were seeking justice and answers but I do not think I have ever met a family with such a depth of love for their lost loved one. Their grief was so intense it struck me hard that day and it has never left me. We are here today because Lucia O’Farrell and her family are never going to stop until the full truth is reached and the absolute calamity of the criminal justice system in regard to what happened and the circumstances that led to this case are addressed.

This was a whole-of-justice-system failing. It was not just a failing of numerous members of An Garda Síochána from the front line to the senior management; it was also a failure of our courts system, our prosecution service and of communications with our nearest neighbour in the North. When Mr. Gridziuska was before the courts in the North, An Garda Síochána was contacted by the PSNI to confirm his address and criminal record, which was done, but even then the alarm bells did not ring. This was a whole-of-system failing and to leave this to GSOC to investigate is an abdication of responsibility by the Government. The only way to get to the bottom of everything that went wrong is to conduct a public inquiry. I am proud to say, with Lucia and her daughter looking on from the Public Gallery now, having watched the Dáil vote earlier, that the elected Parliament of our people has sent a clear message to the Minister today. He must set up a public inquiry into all of the circumstances that led to the death of Shane O’Farrell

It is quite devastating to listen to the full details. Lucia briefed a number of Senators before this discussion today. She has her briefing document with her now. It is a long scroll that one has to hold above one’s head to read which outlines the catalogue of offences committed by Mr. Gridziuska in his home country, in our State and in the neighbouring jurisdiction. He broke the law over and over again and time and again he got away with it. He made a mockery of our justice system, our Courts Service and our policing service. We cannot bring back Shane O’Farrell or undo the heartbreak that has been caused to Lucia and her family but we can build a justice system that learns from its mistakes and sorts out its grave failings. These were failings of human beings and of systems that led to a catastrophe for the O’Farrell family.

The Minister must listen to the will of the people as voiced in the Dáil today. He must also listen to the voices in this House who are telling him that, with all due respect to GSOC, which has a role to play, this case is not for that organisation alone. This needs a full public inquiry. I wish to focus on GSOC for a moment. There are serious lessons for us here. It took six years for its report to be finalised but it is just not up to specification. It is terrible and there is no getting around that. It does not ask the hard questions of An Garda Síochána.

It accepts the Garda version of events again and again. It does not deal with the fact that the PSNI asked for the records and received them from An Garda Síochána but no analysis was done. It does not deal with the fact that a vehicle with no insurance and no NCT which was being driven by a drug addict, with a number of other addicts as passengers, was not seized. The car was waved on. The report does not address the fact that again and again, the will of the courts was not implemented. All of this was just accepted and no hard questions were asked. In politics, we talk about people appearing on television programmes and getting a “soft interview”. My God but An Garda Síochána got a soft interview. What a shocking failure. We need to give more powers to GSOC and to radically reform that organisation. That is the lesson from this episode. As it happens, GSOC was not the appropriate body to investigate this case because it is much wider than An Garda Síochána. As I said already, this is a whole of justice system calamity.

The depth of love and grief and the determination and dedication of Lucia and Jim has never left me. That is why we are here today. At the same time, I wonder about all of the other families who have suffered. A lot of people in this country were brought up to believe in those in a uniform, in authority and with an education – our supposed “betters”. How many poor families just accepted their lot? How many families, overwhelmed by their grief, just let it go? How many other families never got to have their say? On behalf of this House, I thank Lucia because her battle is not just for her beloved son; it is for all of the families who were failed by our justice system, by An Garda Síochána and by our courts on occasions.

The Minister can smirk all he likes but he has a responsibility to respect the will of our Parliament and Dáil Éireann today, which has given him a democratic mandate to set up a public inquiry into the full circumstances of Shane O’Farrell’s death. GSOC has submitted its first report on the case but it must now be put in the hands of a wider public inquiry because this is a whole-of-justice-system failing. It is not just a failing of An Garda Síochána but of the whole system. That is the Minister’s responsibility. I totally endorse the comments made by Senator Norris. There was a conflict of interest in relation to the review mechanism. For God’s sake, a five year old, never mind an eminent Minister, could see that. There is no point in questioning and challenging Senator Norris on his rightful assertion. This is a calamity from start to finish and the only tenable response is a full public inquiry with all of the participants coming before it, with all of the answers to be found and justice to be done. We must try to ensure that no other family goes through what the O’Farrells have gone through already.”