September 27, 2023
“Was the man who killed Shane O’Farrell a Garda Informer?” – Matt Carthy asks Justice Minister during Dáil debate

Cavan-Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has asked the Justice Minister whether Zigimantas Gridziuska, the man responsible for the death of Shane O’Farrell in 2011, was a Garda Informer, as suspected by many.

Speaking during a Topical Issues debate requested by Deputy Carthy and Deputy Bríd Smith, the Sinn Féin representative told Minister McEntee that if she cannot answer that question then ‘she cannot say that the full facts have been established by the scoping exercise’.

During the debate Deputy Carthy reiterated his call for an independent public inquiry into the circumstances that led to Shane O’Farrell’s death and the actions of state agencies in relation to it. Members of the O’Farrell family were present during the debate.

Deputy Carthy told the Dáil:

“Shane O’Farrell was 23 years of age when he was killed in a hit-and-run on 2 August 2011 by Zigimantas Gridziuska, a known criminal who had breached several bail conditions at the time and had 42 previous convictions in three different jurisdictions.

“Since Shane’s death, his family have sought to get the truth of why the man who killed their son was in a position to do so when he should have been in prison and certainly should not have been on the road in Carrickmacross that fateful evening. I welcome Shane’s family here today.

“In 2018, the Dáil supported a motion for the establishment of a public inquiry. Among the Members who insisted that only such an inquiry could get the full facts of these matters was the Fianna Fáil leader and current Tánaiste, Micheál Martin. Rather than implementing the decision of the Dáil, the then Government established a scoping exercise. Many, myself included, feared that exercise was an attempt to delay.

“Regrettably, the reality is worse than I feared. It now seems that it is the Government’s intention that the scoping exercise not just delay the truth but act as a barrier against getting it.

“The Minister will know that many aspects of the scoping report have been challenged by Shane O’Farrell’s family. It is not acceptable that Government has refused to provide time for a full debate on its contents. This is something I will continue to seek.

“Zigimantas Gridziuska is solely responsible for the death of Shane O’Farrell, nobody else, and certainly not Shane himself. A crucial question that has not been answered is why this man was in a position to crash into a young Carrickmacross lad, kill him and leave the scene, when he clearly should have been in prison in light of multiple breaches of multiple bail conditions set by multiple courts.

“Every single person who understands these matters that I have spoken to privately, including many members of An Garda Síochána, have arrived at the same theory. They believe that Mr. Gridziuska must have been a Garda informer. The O’Farrell family has established that there is a file on Mr. Gridziuska in the Garda National Crime, Security and Intelligence Service, but they do not know what is on that file. They deserve to know.

“The only way they will find out is if the Minister finally accedes to implementing the decision of the House to establish an independent public inquiry into this case.”

Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, said:

“I thank the Deputies for raising this matter. I want to start by acknowledging the family who are in the Gallery and thank them for being here this morning. I also want to acknowledge the huge hurt and loss that has been caused by Shane’s death. I also acknowledge those in the wider family and community who loved him.

“As the Deputies are aware, on 3 July my Department published the report that was carried out by Judge Gerard Haughton arising from the scoping exercise into the circumstances surrounding the tragic and untimely death of Shane O’Farrell in, as was mentioned, August 2011. Judge Haughton was appointed by the former Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, in 2019 to carry out the scoping exercise. This was in light of a huge amount of controversy, hurt and upset surrounding the circumstances of Shane’s tragic death. Specifically, the purpose of the exercise was to advise the Minister as to whether any further investigation or inquiry beyond those that had been carried out was necessary and, if so, to advise and inform of such investigation or inquiry or its terms of reference. I want to reassure the Deputies that there was no attempt to delay anything or prevent any further inquiry. It is very much open to Judge Haughton to outline if a further inquiry was needed and what the scope and tenure of that would be.

“I want to thank Judge Haughton who conducted the scoping exercise and everyone, including the family, who cooperated with this process. His work has resulted in what I believe is a very thorough and comprehensive report. It is 416 pages long and every effort was made to make sure it was a fair and true representation of the situation, the facts at hand and whether more investigation was needed.

“He submitted his final report to me on 1 June 2022. In receipt of that, I then sought the Attorney General’s advice on the issue of publication. Following that, the then Taoiseach, now Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, and I met with members of the O’Farrell family regarding the report in terms of both the content and publication. More recently, the Minister, Deputy Harris, met with members of the family in April.

“In his report, Judge Haughton concluded there are no circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Farrell that warrant further investigation or inquiry beyond what has already been carried out. He is very clear on that. Beyond those that have been carried out, there is no further warrant of investigation. He further concludes that no inquiry is necessary into the systems and procedures for information sharing between An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and other relevant State bodies operating at the time of O’Farrell’s death.

“Judge Haughton made a number of important recommendations regarding bail, suspended sentences, legislation, amendments to the Road Traffic Act and in relation to notices of appeal that are administered by the Courts Service. I can confirm and I assure the Deputies that many of these recommendations are being progressed, if not enacted at this stage. As they are implemented, I have absolute confidence they will strengthen our justice system.

“Above all, we want to ensure that nobody goes through what the family has gone through and nobody else finds themselves in this situation. Whatever changes need to be made are being made. However, it is very clear in this report that it does not warrant a further inquiry, which, at the end of that, will not give us any different answers or leave us in a different position than we are now. I know this is extremely difficult in general and in particular for the family. I urge Deputies to read the report. I know these Deputies have, but those who have not, I urge them to read the report and go through all of the facts that have been outlined here. Judge Haughton is very clear that a further inquiry would not help. The most important thing is that we support and help the family but a further inquiry would not do that.”

In follow-up, Deputy Matt Carthy said:

“I wish to put on the record that I absolutely refute and reject that position.

“The O’Farrell family has been here many times before and have had 11 years or more now of words of sympathy in this House. They want to see action.

“I would have liked if the Minister took the opportunity today to agree to some small steps that could allow them, but also society at large, to get to the truth as to why a man who should have been imprisoned was in a position to kill Shane O’Farrell.

“The first thing the Minister could do is agree to establish the public inquiry as mandated by both Houses of the Oireachtas. She clearly rejected that this morning. If she cannot or will not do that, she could commit to two things. She could instruct the Government Whip to provide time for a full debate in this House on the scoping exercise report that has been laid before us. That is the least that the Dáil deserves.

“Second, she can confirm whether or not she knows whether Zigimantas Gridziuska was a Garda informer. If she does not know that, she cannot say hand on heart that the full facts have been established by the scoping exercise. She could commit this morning that if she does not know, she will go to the Garda Commissioner today and find out.”

Deputy Helen McEntee concluded: “I suggest that we have taken action. The fact that this report has taken significantly longer is not what anybody expected but it is because Judge Haughton wanted to make sure that it was thorough, that no stone was left unturned and that any important information that could form the basis of a further inquiry or anything that might necessarily need further inquiry was investigated. No stone was left unturned; that is why it has taken so long. The terms of reference were set out very clearly. There was clearly engagement on this with the family and many other people as well to make sure that all of the facts were uncovered. I again ask Deputies to read what is in the report and take the time to consider its contents. I have no problem sitting here and going through it with Deputies in the House.”

Matt Carthy: “So the Minister would agree to a debate?”

Minister Helen McEntee: “I have no issue with that. There is no problem. It gives the opportunity to anybody coming into the House to read it and go through it in detail. However, I am clear that the report itself states that there is no need for further inquiry and that is the basis of all of the facts that we have in this. I accept the report. It has been published and Government has accepted it as well.”

Deputy Matt Carthy: “Was Zigimantas Gridziuska a Garda informer?”

Deputy Helen McEntee: “Really?”

Following the debate, the O’Farrell family met with Deputy Carthy and with Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson, Pa Daly. The Sinn Féin representatives committed to delivering the Independent Public Inquiry as mandated by both House of the Oireachtas into all aspects of the Shane O’Farrell case.

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