17.10.23 – Senator Regina Doherty – Seanad

17 10 23 Senator Regina Doherty Seanad 720WebShareName

Uploaded by Lucia O’Farrell on 2023-11-10.

I would like to say thanks to the Minister but what she has read out is not acceptable, not to me and not to this Seanad. Shane O’Farrell was killed when he was out on his bike. He was cycling training on 2 August 2011, and Zigimantas Gridziuska, a convicted criminal who we let walk into this country with no checks or balances whatsoever, knocked him down in his car and callously drove away, hid his car, got into his bed and slept like a baby. Shane was 23 years of age, the same age the Minister was at the time Shane passed away, when the world was literally just opening up at his feet.
Arising from interaction with Shane’s family, who are here today campaigning for justice, Dáil and Seanad Éireann passed motions calling for the immediate establishment of a public inquiry into the death of their son, Shane. Some deal was struck that saw a scoping exercise conducted instead of this public inquiry. That scoping exercise was chaired by retired Judge Gerard
Haughton. I am here tonight to discuss that report because in my opinion it is nothing short of a disgraceful, unprofessional, immature at points, and entirely biased report. There have been so many failings by agencies of the State since Shane’s death 12 years ago that it is actually easy to get lost in the details of this case. First of all and very clearly, I am calling for this report to be rejected by Seanad Éireann in the strongest terms given the many errors, omissions and blatant victim blaming on nearly every page of this report. Second, I am calling for the independent inquiry as directed by Seanad and Dáil Éireann in 2018 and 2019 to properly investigate the circumstances surrounding Shane’s death, and why Gridziuska was at liberty on that night he killed Shane. Ironically, despite it being very clear in the terms of reference that was given to Judge Haughton, the report does not answer those questions.
Let us first deal with some of the most significant shortcomings of the 420 page report. The Minister keeps citing the report as comprehensive, yet it manages to not answer the fundamental questions as to why the person who killed Shane was at large on 2 August in 2011. There are hundreds of pages and to my mind most of them are cut and pasted from GSOC inquiries, police ombudsman inquiries, and coroners’ reports. It cost €500,000 and took four years to complete and it does not answer the fundamental question that the Department, the Minister’s predecessor and the Minister have asked as to why this man was at large on 2 August. It is absolutely beyond me how we can accept a report when it does not answer that fundamental question.
Instead of answering the question, page one of the report, paragraph No. 2, blames a young man of 23 years for his own death. We have victim blaming at its absolute worst and it does not end there because the tone of victim blaming inexplicably continues throughout the report. Will the Minister imagine for a second putting herself in the O’Farrell family’s shoes? They are the ones who most want and have demanded answers for their son, they have done everything they possibly can for the last 13 years to get those answers, and they open a report where on page one, it blames their own son. A judge who was engaged to determine the circumstances leading up to Shane’s death blames Shane himself without a shred of evidence. The evidence the judge does cite on page one had to be redacted because it was an error; after €500,000 and four years, he already has an error.
Probably the hardest part to read in the report is when the judge moves on to criticise the family in every possible way he can. He paints a picture of a family who were critical of An Garda Síochána, critical of GSOC, critical of the police ombudsman, and critical of the Department of Justice, in some way trying to imply that no matter what anybody does the family would never be happy. The reality is that the O’Farrell family has every right to be critical of all of those State agencies. Tonight I include the political system in that long list because if we fail to get the public inquiry that the Seanad and the Dáil both voted for in 2018 and 2019 then we will have failed this family tonight again. Hundreds of pages in, before we get to the end of the report, the author
states that he does not believe further investigation is warranted. It really beggars belief that he has not answered any of the questions that were put in the terms of reference.
I will look at some of the major failings. The author says there are no issues with bail that warrants further investigations yet he does not explain how Gridziuska was on bail for six offences at the time of Shane’s death. Any right thinking person would think there is something wrong with the system that allows a person repeatedly to be out on bail despite repeatedly committing offences. The bail system in Ireland is clearly dysfunctional when somebody is allowed continue to do that loop over and over again. In July this year, some 12 years after the debatable state our bail system was in, Justice Mary Ellen Ring stated that the State authorities – which we are so proud of – are “making a mockery of the bail system” by not bringing offenders back. The Minister has cited that judges are independent. They are only independent when they are provided with the information that actually allows them to make independent decisions. We are aware that An Garda Síochána does not have training to provide previous PULSE documentation of bail discrepancies. We know that they do not tell the judges in instances. Currently our Minister is saying that the bail system is working but our judges are telling us that the bail system is not working. This is really strange.
The report makes a determination that the existing GSOC reports were adequate in this investigation yet the judge – the author of this report – did not even have the underlying GSOC report to review and he did not even request them. I do not know how the report can say in 460 pages that the GSOC report was grand and that we will stick with it when the judge had not even read or asked for the GSOC report. It is unfathomable.
Another significant question that is unanswered, and the Minister is the only person who can answer it, is whether Gridziuska was an informer. The report appears to acknowledge this when the judge said “confidential documents do exist” in the Garda national crime and intelligence service. What are those documents? Why does an agency of the State have a document or a dossier on Gridziuska? What exactly was the relationship? Was he an informer? Was that the reason he was let go on the night of Shane’s death? I do not know any other reason somebody in a clapped out car, with heroin in their possession, and with no insurance to drive the car would be told “Go on son, you are grand”.
Another thing really bugging people is that all through the 460 pages Zigimantas Gridziuska was referred to as ZG, as if he was some anonymous person and we can dehumanise him because he did not really matter. Shane O’Farrell was called Shane O’Farrell on every single page of this report and yet we sought to talk about the person who took his life as ZG. It is not funny.
In the report, Judge Haughton refers to speeding as “trivial offences”. In the past months the Minister, Deputy McEntee, and the Minister of State, Deputy Jack Chambers, have rightly sought to double the penalties for offences with regard to road traffic accidents because we have had such a loss of life – and particularly in the past summer – of our citizens in this country. Judge Haughton thinks that those speeding offences are trivial matters. This in itself is enough for us to recognise that this report will be rejected. I could go on talking about the shortcomings of this report for probably another eight minutes. I reject this report and I ask my colleagues here to reject this report. The report should be struck from the record of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Shane’s family deserve the proper answers they have been asking for, and which Seanad and Dáil Éireann asked for in 2018 and 2019.
I ask my colleagues to join me in putting down that motion in all our names next week to reiterate the State’s insistence that we open a public inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the death of Shane and his death. The family has been fighting for justice for 13 years. We have contributed to their trauma by retraumatising them and by the disgraceful behaviour from every single agency, including the Minister’s Department. It is not good enough and it is not in our name.