I have not had an opportunity to formally welcome the Minister back. I congratulate her on her recent arrival. GSOC should be the route whereby families or victims who feel they have been ill served by Garda actions can find truth and justice. One family that sought this were the parents and siblings of Shane O’Farrell. This House will recall that Shane was a 23-year-old Carrickmacross man killed in a hit-and-run on 2 August 2011 by a known criminal who had breached several bail conditions at the time and who had 42 previous convictions in three different jurisdictions.
Rather than GSOC providing truth and justice to Shane’s family, it compounded their grief. In April 2014 the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Alan Shatter, ordered a section 102(5) public interest inquiry that allowed GSOC to widen the scope of its inquiry, but it failed to do so. In April 2018 GSOC produced the section 101 public interest report, but the family and public received only a summarised version. The O’Farrell family has written to GSOC on several occasions requesting the full report but it has been refused.
In January 2019 GSOC produced a second report under section 97 of the Garda Síochána Act. This was given to the Garda Commissioner but not to the family. Both the Garda Commissioner and GSOC refused to give the family the report. Rather than being a route for justice, the GSOC investigation was used as a ruse by Ministers, the Department and the Garda to shelve movement on this case for several years and to refuse to answer any questions, on the basis that the matter was being investigated by GSOC. The GSOC report, when finally published, was significant primarily because of its omissions, so much so that both Houses of the Oireachtas passed resolutions calling for an independent public inquiry into the case. Rather than delivering that, the Government initiated a scoping inquiry in early 2019, an inquiry that has, bizarrely, yet to deliver its report. It is entirely understandable, therefore, that this has led to fear that the scoping exercise is just another mechanism to delay the revealing of the full truth in this instance.
The GSOC process has failed some families, such as the family of Shane O’Farrell. It needs to be overhauled, bearing in mind the experiences and lessons relayed to us. I plead with the Minister to reassure the O’Farrell family, as they approach their 11th Christmas without their beloved son Shane, that she will deliver upon the resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas and begin now the preparatory work for the full public inquiry that we hope will provide the answers to the endless list of unsavoury questions that have been raised regarding this case.