17.10.23 John McGuinness Dail Eireann

17 10 23 John McGuinness 720WebShareName

Uploaded by Lucia O’Farrell on 2023-10-19.

We should note at this stage of the discussion that we still do not have a copy of the Minister’s statement to the House. It is therefore difficult to accurately quote what she had to say. We know where Fine Gael stands because it voted against the motion proposed in 2018. As we can see, apart from the Minister, there is not one Fine Gael Deputy here. It is important that we note that because the Opposition and Members of my party are here to set on record what we believe in. Are we leading the O’Farrell family along another length of road where nothing will be done for them? The least that should be done is to hold a public inquiry. The judge’s report needs to be withdrawn immediately and we need to rely on what the House demanded in 2018. The House’s demand, which was proposed by my colleague, Deputy Jim O’Callaghan, was for a public inquiry. That was the overwhelming view of the Dáil and Seanad at that time.

During the debate in 2018, our party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, stated it was time for action. I agree with that. In 2017, commenting on the case again, he stated: “The entire case reveals shocking malpractice and dysfunction in the criminal justice system at all levels.” If, as I do, the Minister believes in that in its entirely, there is an obligation on her to ensure that any of the errors in legislation are rectified, perhaps by bringing new legislation before the House.
The decision the House took on the night of the debate was on holding a public inquiry. After that, the judge was asked to do a scoping exercise. He was not asked to give judgment, which is what he did. Like other Members, I could go through all the cases relating to the man who killed Shane O’Farrell on the road that night, but I will not do that because they have been well rehearsed here by other Members.

I ask the Minister to remember that Shane O’Farrell had just finished college. He got a first in his master’s degree. He was looking forward to travelling a bit of the world but not too far because he was very much attached to his family. He was loved by his family and friends. He was often referred to as “Wordsworth O’Farrell” because of his general knowledge about all sorts of things when going through college. We had an ordinary man going about his business, cycling his bike. In the introduction to his report, the judge made great play of where Shane was situated on the roadway when he was knocked down. He also made great play of the fact that Shane did not have a light on his bike. Then he quoted legislation on how and why you would be breaking the law if you did not have a light on your bike. The cyclist, Shane, was clearly marked, at the front of his bike and at the back. Any driver paying attention would have seen Shane O’Farrell on his bicycle.

Hear, hear.

Hear, hear.

That is a fact. The judge, in saying this in the report, is doing nothing else but throwing in information about Shane O’Farrell so that, at the end of the report, he could actually blame him. That is far from the truth and it is far away from what he was asked to do. The man who killed Shane O’Farrell had 42 convictions but Shane had no light on his bike. The man was known to the gardaí and known to be involved in drugs, but Shane had no light on his bike.

The car had no national car test, NCT, which was known to the Garda one hour beforehand, but Shane had no light on his bike. He drove away from the scene of the accident and hid the car in a ditch near his home, but Shane had no light on his bike. I find all of that commentary despicable. I reject it. I again ask the Minister to now remove that report from the Library or wherever else it is held so that we can get to the truth.

If all of us believe in the truth, as we expressed we did in 2018, there is an obligation on the Minister to consider what the judge had to say but then to decide what is in the best interest of justice for Shane, the O’Farrell family and the country. We would never have known that this man should have been in jail at the time he killed Shane O’Farrell were it not for that accident. We would never have known about the litany of errors in the court system, the failure of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, the failure of the Garda and now the failure of the Department of Justice. If we stand for truth and for doing the right thing, I would like to hear the Minister say in her closing remarks that while she will listen to what she has been told by the judge, she will do what this House demanded, which is to have a public inquiry.

There are 4,000 prisoners abroad who all want to come home to serve out their time in Ireland. This man, having done all of this, was asked whether he wanted to serve his time here or wanted to go home. I have never heard anything like it. You have to read the detail of the case as investigated by Lucia O’Farrell and her family. It was not the State that conducted the investigation. It was Lucia O’Farrell and her family. We owe it to others who might be affected by all this failure, and to the next generation, to set in place a system of justice that will be transparent, that we can believe in and that will not cause the issues it has caused for the country and the O’Farrell family. As politicians, we should not be afraid to take that decision. The Minister has the support of the majority of the House to do that. Rather than having statements that might be worthless or having closed-door conversations with the O’Farrell family, the Minister should come out bold and brave and put into action what other people in this House have said, namely, that there should be a public inquiry. Nothing short of that will satisfy the majority of us in the House. We will not allow another whitewash of the death of Shane O’Farrell.