17.10.23 Pauline O’Reilly Seanad

17.10.23 – Pauline O’Reilly Seanad

Uploaded by Lucia O’Farrell on 2023-11-12.

I welcome the Minister. I thank the O’Farrell family for meeting with us last week and I thank Senator Doherty for organising that and for inviting me as a representative of the Green Party. I know the family have also met with my colleague, Tate Donnelly, in Monaghan, and we have sat down and had a meeting so that I understand the full details. As many others have said, I offer our deep sympathy. It does not matter how long ago it is; I understand that the pain is still being felt.

The entire purpose of an inquiry is to shed light on something, and that is what people were calling for. It is not just the family. Of course, it is very important that families want to understand what has happened to their loved ones. However, what we actually found was that it was the entire Oireachtas that said there is something going on here that we do not understand and we called for an inquiry. The report not only fails to shed light on the matter, it muddies the waters even further. That is the real difficulty that I have. In fact, it has both gone beyond the terms of reference of a scoping inquiry yet not met the terms of reference. It is very hard to put your finger on it but, there are so many problems with this report.

I listened to the Dáil debate earlier. One comment that stood out to me was made by Deputy Jim O’Callaghan, who said it actually makes findings of fact but does not call any witnesses in order to determine what those facts might be. It is looking into the word of other people and cases. There are no references or footnotes, as has been pointed out by the family. How do we actually get to the bottom of more than 400 pages with no footnotes and be able to point out all of the errors? Yet, this family have pointed out quite well to us all of the failures of the report.

Again, I do not want to go into the character of the judge, but he was not asked to go into the details of the case. The real issue is why Zigimantas Gridziuska was committing an offence while on bail. He was on bail for two years and, during that period, committed 34 offences in Ireland and also breached bail by going to the North of Ireland and committing more offences there. We still do not have any answers as to how that could happen under our system. That is the real issue that the judge was asked to address. He was asked to scope what the parameters of an inquiry would be in order to look at that. The scope did not look at this issue and, therefore, we cannot possibly close it.

We cannot possibly say that there has been an inquiry and that it has resolved the issues, because it has not been done. When we are talking about justice we often say it is about ensuring not just that justice is done, but also that it is seen to be done. I am not only going to say that there is a lack of transparency here. It is not only that justice is not being seen to be done because we cannot read a report that does not have footnotes; it is also that justice clearly was

not done. The part where the family and the State have really been let down is in the first couple of pages of the report, in effectively blaming the victim. I find that outrageous. To start a 400- page report in that manner really does leave question marks over the entire report because again, the judge was not asked to do that. I am not going to attack his character, but if I was reading that as a cold neutral observer, I would ask what is being hidden and why we are drawing attention to this when there is a lot more that has to be answered. I am not going to go into whether we have enough evidence as to whether the perpetrator was an informer. In many ways it is not what we are being asked to ascertain here, but at the very least there should be an answer to the question. If he was not an informer, we are still left with all of the questions marks as to why the justice system failed.

If, at the end of all of this, we are to say it is fine, we do not need an inquiry and we sign on the dotted line, where are we leaving society then? Are we saying it is okay for a person to be on bail for two years, one judge having said that if the man committed one further offence he would have to appear before the court and would be put behind bars? That did not happen. He committed 34 offences while on bail in the Republic and three in the North of Ireland. An hour before the final offence happened, this man was stopped by gardaí, with no NCT and with drugs in the car, yet nothing happened. He was told to go off about his business. Would that happen to any of the rest of us? I do not think so. I want to make sure it does not happen again. I am not confident of that because we do not have the answers. As a mother of young people, I know that your heart is in your mouth every time they leave. At the very least you expect the State to be looking out for you and to be on your side, and not on the side of those who perpetrate these kinds of criminal acts. That is what has happened. It is not good enough for us to stand here and say that the report sets out the judge’s findings. On behalf of the Green Party, I am joining with my colleagues in saying that we do not accept this. There needs to be a proper inquiry. This exercise was not an inquiry. It was never designed to be an inquiry. It was not what the Oireachtas asked for. We need an inquiry not just for the family and not just because it will provide justice for Shane, but because it is about guaranteeing justice for everyone who goes out their door and expects to be taken care of by this State.