17.10.23 Robbie Gallagher Seanad

18.10.23 – Seanad Robbie Gallagher

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

I welcome the Minister back to the House. I, too, extend a warm welcome to Lucia and Jim and their two daughters. I take this opportunity to pass on my sincere condolences to you on the tragic loss of your dear son, Shane, at the early age of 23. No parent should live to see that happen. To lose a child in sudden circumstances is a traumatic and life-changing event for any family. To lose a child in the circumstances in which you lost Shane is truly heartbreaking. You carry a life sentence with you and my heart goes out to you.
Shane was just 23 years of age when he was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. As far as I am concerned, on 3 August 2011, the criminal justice system failed the O’Farrell family. Twelve years on, the criminal justice system is continuing to fail the O’Farrell family. All the O’Farrell family are looking for is justice.
It is not a witch hunt. They are not after heads. They just want to ensure that no family sits in the Visitors Gallery and lives the life that they are living. That is what this is all about and that is what we strive for. That is why the Members of this House and the Lower House passed a motion five years ago, in 2018, calling for an independent public inquiry to shine a light on exactly what happened that night, when Zigimantas Gridziuska, a man with 42 previous convictions and numerous warrants out for his arrest, was still free to drive a car that knocked down their son and brother. That is what this is about. As far as I am concerned, that call from both Houses for a public inquiry still stands.
There is nothing in this report that gives me confidence that we have got to the bottom of this very sad saga. I join with others in calling for a motion to be laid before this House. I have no doubt that, like before, we all speak with one voice on this matter and that we all want to see the truth of what actually happened. I am sad to say that Judge Haughton’s report was not what this House or the Lower House called for. We got a scoping inquiry but it is not the end of the road for this sad saga.
What is really heartbreaking for the O’Farrell family is that rather than shine a light on the shortcomings of the criminal justice system, the light in many ways is left shining on the memory of Shane O’Farrell in that a detailed report that took four years to compile almost blames Shane O’Farrell for what happened. It talks about lights not being on a bicycle. That is not what we asked for here. Shane O’Farrell is where he is today because of a criminal justice failure – a systems failure. The man who was driving the car that night, as Senator Doherty said, probably
should never have seen the shores of this land. He never should have got in here in the first place yet he was to run for years, committing crimes, involved in drug dealing, yet at large to do what he did on that particular night.
I genuinely take my hat off to the O’Farrell family. If something of that magnitude were to happen to my family, I do not know if I would conduct myself in the same dignified and respectful manner that they all do. They are an absolute credit. They have been carrying a cross with them for the past 12 years and they will carry that cross until the man above calls each and every one of them.
With respect to the Minister, there is a duty on every one of us. I am not going to criticise the character of Judge Haughton but, clearly, the job that he conducted has in many ways raised more questions rather than supplying answers. As I said, it is not the end of the road, as far as I am concerned. We have many more miles to travel. Questions are being asked as to why this man was allowed to continue on his way on that evening of 3 August. Was it perhaps that this man was an informer? Here we are again, with more questions than answers. It is disappointing that, 12 years on, we are still standing here having the same conversation.
The other outstanding matter is that this man was banned from the State ten years ago, as the Minister noted. What I took from that is that as far as the Minister is concerned, if she becomes aware that he may be entering the State again, that simply cannot happen. Can the Minister indicate whether it is possible, in the Ireland that we live in today, that this man could come back here without any of us knowing a thing about it? I would be grateful if the Minister could answer that question.
This is not the end of the road, as I said. I also said that this is not a witch hunt. It is about the O’Farrell family finally having closure in respect of this sad saga. Given the way this issue has dominated the lives of the people sitting in the Visitors Gallery since that 3 August, the very least they deserve is the truth, the very least they deserve is that they can finally put this to rest and, I respectfully suggest, get on with the natural mourning of the loss of their dear son and dear brother. As politicians in both Houses, we have to make sure that the State does not fail that family any further than it has. If putting down a motion in this House brings that conclusion for the O’Farrell family, the Minister can take it that every single one of us in this House will gladly and proudly sign that motion. I ask the Minister to by all means digest the contents of the report from Judge Haughton but also to give a commitment here this evening that this is not the end of the road and that we will finally give closure to the O’Farrell family in order that, as I said, they can get on with grieving the loss of their dear son and dear brother.