17.10.23 – Peadar Tóibín Dail Eireann

I, too, welcome the family of Shane O’Farrell to the Gallery. I again extend my deepest condolences to Shane’s family. Shane O’Farrell’s family have travelled a torturous journey since the death of their son. The loss of a child to any parent is probably the toughest experience that parent will go through. As parents, we are all wired to try to do the best we can and to protect our children. That Shane’s death was preventable makes this all the more tragic for the family. The fact it was preventable, had the State done its job properly, is an indictment against the State regarding what has happened.

I give enormous credit to the O’Farrell family for their campaign for justice, not just for Shane but for their efforts to reform the justice system to ensure that this does not happen again to any other family. The manner in which the family have been treated in their quest for justice has been a disaster. The manner in which the O’Farrell family have been treated by the scoping exercise is absolutely wrong. The fact that Shane has been in part blamed for his own death is horrendous. That there should be any equivocation with regard to where the blame lies for his death is a gross insult to the family. I, too, add my call for this report to be withdrawn.

The State has grievously wronged this family, first and foremost by not ensuring the law was implemented in the first instances. We have heard the litany of dysfunction that has arisen in the case raised by many other Deputies in the House. Shocking failure after shocking failure has led to Shane’s death. Gridziuska had 40 previous offences, including drug, theft and speeding offences, had breached bail conditions, and did not serve the prison terms he was meant to serve. That Gridziuska was allowed to break the law, seemingly with impunity, by the justice system in this State is incredible. The question is whether that impunity was arrived at by the State by accident or on purpose. That is a question that has to be answered by the State in the long run.

This level of dysfunction is an indictment against the justice system and the gardaí locally but worse still, it is an indictment against the Dáil because if we are to have a justice system that functions, we need a number of ingredients. We need truth, first of all, to find out what happened. If we do not have truth we can never have a system that actually works. The second ingredient we need is accountability. If there is no accountability, there is no justice, first and foremost. There is no change. There is no change in behaviour. If people know the actions they take will never be held to account those behaviours will never change within a system. The most worrying aspect of this is it is likely that this will happen again and again in the Irish justice system. Accountability can only be achieved when there is truth, when there is justice and when there is a guarantee there will be a cost to those who act in this fashion in the future.

It shocks me each time that there is such an instinct in the Government and in the institutions of the State to protect the institutions of the State and not the citizens we are meant to protect. This is not new. In every single case where we have had a group of citizens who were wronged, they have had to drag the Government, kicking and screaming, to finally achieve the public investigation or the tribunal that is necessary to achieve justice. Why is that instinct still so embedded in the Government’s system? Truth and justice absolutely have not been achieved by this scoping exercise. The only way it will be achieved is by a full public inquiry into what happened.

This debate is happening against a background of many deaths on the roads at the moment. There have been 151 people killed on Irish roads this year, which is 36 more than were killed tragically last year. Information I received from the courts today shows that dangerous driving is on the increase, as are drug driving and speeding. This is happening today. We may feel we are talking about a case from a number of years ago but right now, these actions are worsening. One significant reason they are worsening is because the Garda police and roads section is weakening drastically at present. The number of gardaí currently policing the roads is at the lowest figure it has been for 14 years. Since Fine Gael came to office in 2011, it has fallen practically every year and right now is at the lowest figure of those 14 years. It is an incredible figure. There is no doubt but that the smaller the Garda force that is in place, the less likely it is able to police the roads or to influence the behaviour of drivers and the more likely we are to have deaths on the roads. I implore the Minister to publicly come out 100% behind the family to make sure they have all access to truth and justice, to make sure those who did wrong are held to account and to make sure something like this never happens again.