Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item Greenways Development
 Header Item Road Network
 Header Item Message from Dáil
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 and Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motions
 Header Item Commission of Investigation: Motion
 Header Item Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission: Motion
 Header Item Death of Shane O'Farrell: Statements

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 258 No. 10

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Chuaigh an Leas-Chathaoirleach i gceannas ar 10:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I have received notice from Senator Maria Byrne that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, she proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to consider the inclusion of the Shannon greenway in the greenway strategy as part of the Ireland 2040: National Planning Framework.

I have also received notice from Senator Robbie Gallagher of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to increase the funding for regional and local roads in County Monaghan and throughout rural Ireland.

I regard the matters raised by the Senators as suitable for discussion and they will be taken now.

Commencement Matters

Greenways Development

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross. I am delighted that he has come here for this matter which calls for the inclusion of the Shannon greenway in the greenway strategy is part of the Project Ireland 2040: National Planning Framework. I cannot claim any credit for this proposal. I would like to welcome Mr. Eoin O'Hagan from Scariff in County Clare who is in the Public Gallery and who is the brainchild behind this proposal. He pitched this proposal to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and several other Ministers in March. The proposed greenway would run from the Shannon Pot in County Cavan to the last light at Loop Head in County Clare and Kerry Head in County Kerry. It would be the longest greenway, coming through the centre of Ireland. For thousands of years, the river has been at the heart of Ireland and this was acknowledged by Mr. W. T. Cosgrave who was in the first Government when Ardnacrusha was in development and Ireland's first hydro-electric generating station was constructed, bringing the fledgling State into the industrial age.

  Greenways attract families, tourists and groups, including cycling groups. I have been on the Déise greenway and the Achill greenway and they have been a great success in terms of attracting tourists and helping in the community with job creation. I was on the Déise greenway on the bank holiday weekend and I saw the number of shops, coffee shops, restaurants and shops supplying the bicycles that have opened up. This also ties into our Healthy Ireland programme in terms of encouraging people to exercise and get fit. A Shannon greenway would encourage a slower tourism and its length would encourage people to explore the heart of Ireland. These are the thoughts behind this proposed greenway. The walker or cyclist will spend time along the route and stay in different places which would lead to hotels, bed and breakfasts or hostels popping up along the route. Such greenways have been a great success all around Europe.

  Fáilte Ireland has just launched Ireland's Hidden Heartland's brand and the proposed Shannon greenway could become a major key tourist attraction and could become a must-visit green destination that would anchor the Hidden Heartland's brand. We have been very successful with the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East and I believe that this initiative would be like a breath of fresh air in terms of the way in which many of these routes attract millions of tourists and visitors.

  I mentioned physical health but these routes are also good for our mental health and well-being. It would be a win-win for Ireland and for the different counties along this route.

  There are also many regional airports along the route, including Knock Airport, Kerry Airport and Shannon Airports, all of which come within the remit of the Minister's Department. There is a proposed link from the University of Limerick to the Clare side and this is being developed. The greenway comes along by Killaloe and with the northern distributor road, there could be a link alongside that. There is huge scope to expand this greenway and for it to be the beating heart of Ireland. It is 360 km in length and is worthy of consideration. It will not be built overnight, but there is a very strong tourism possibility for it. It ticks all of the boxes in terms of job creation, tourism and stability in terms of the towns and villages along the route. It would help to put the beating heart back into that part of Ireland where some of the towns and villages may feel a little left behind. It also ticks the box in respect of the Government's strategy of creating jobs outside of the greater Dublin area.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I thank Senator Byrne for making such a strong case for the inclusion of the Shannon greenway in the greenway strategy. I am pleased to tell the Senator that in the coming month, I will launch the greenway strategy which will provide a framework for the development of Ireland’s greenways and will determine the type of project to be funded by my Department over the coming decade. This is a long-term strategy with the aim of increasing the number, length and regional spread of greenways across the country. It will set out guidance to project promoters on matters, including strategic nature, length, design standards, accommodation works and early consultation with communities and landowners along proposed routes. Following the publication of the strategy there will be a call for applications later in 2018 with a view to awarding funding to a number of projects for drawdown between 2019 and 2021. In this regard, I was pleased to secure additional funding for greenways last year, bringing the total available for the period 2018 to 2021 to €55.9 million.

  Given the increased interest in greenways in recent years, I expect that there will be a strong response to this funding call. I would urge potential applicants for funding to progress their planning and design of greenways as far as possible in advance of any application for funding and to resolve any land ownership issues. I expect to have difficult decisions to make later this year regarding which of the many excellent greenways proposals - the Shannon proposal among them - to fund. No specific routes are being included in the strategy and the routes to be funded will be determined by the proposals that are submitted as part of the call for applications. Projects that are likely to be successful in achieving funding are those that are scenic, provide access to things to see and do, that meet the Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, standard on greenway construction, are strategic in nature, have planning permission in place, or in place within a very short period, and that have clarity on any land access issues. They should also have facilities such as accommodation and for food and drink every 15 km to 20 km along the route. The strategy will also prioritise greenways that are of scale, at least 20 km, and have the potential to be part of a wider walking and cycling infrastructure.

  With regard to the Senator’s specific query on the Shannon greenway, I am aware that there is a proposal and my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, has met with some of the promoters. I look forward to seeing the proposal as part of the funding call that will follow the strategy. On the surface, it appears it could fit well with the new brand experience of Ireland's Hidden Heartland's as well as existing greenway infrastructure in Westmeath and Roscommon but could also, depending on its route, fit in with part of the Wild Atlantic Way. If the proposal requires further development and will not meet the funding call this year, it is important to remember that the greenways strategy is a long-term one and will likely have a number of funding calls associated with it.

  Depending on the route proposed, I would add that it would be vital that the relevant local authorities, Waterways Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the OPW would be involved in developing any proposal, include it in the relevant county development plans and then carry out a feasibility study and subsequently, if the proposal justifies it, engage in further planning and design. This development work should commence as soon as possible.

  I wish the proponents well in their endeavours in what is undoubtedly a very good proposal.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Does the Senator have a brief supplementary question?

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I thank the Minister for his positive response and his welcome for this proposal. Even though Mr. O'Hagan is the chairman of the Clare tourism board, this proposal is of such a scale that it encompasses many counties and local authorities. Perhaps the Department could become involved and consider this proposal as a pilot scheme. The route would travel right down the centre of the country, starting in Cavan, travelling through Clare and ending up in Kerry. There is huge potential with the development of this route. We would be grateful for any support from the Department in terms of helping the application along, although I understand the application has to be submitted.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I congratulate the Senator on trying to force me to pre-empt the selection process. I am afraid I am unable to do that but I understand the case she has made and it will not do her cause any harm, or the proposal any damage.

Road Network

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I welcome our former colleague, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who is in the Gallery with a school group. They are very welcome.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I welcome the Minister, Deputy Ross, and thank him for being in attendance. I join the Chair in giving a céad míle fáilte to my former colleague, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, agus an grúpa ó Chontae na Gaillimhe atá i láthair. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh lá iontach acu go léir inniu.

  I thank the Minister for coming here to discuss the condition of local and regional roads in counties Cavan and Monaghan and indeed throughout the entire country. This is the third time we have discussed the road network in County Monaghan in the last two years. He was good enough to facilitate a delegation from Monaghan County Council on this issue approximately 18 months ago. I am not overstating the matter when I say that this has become a crisis. I do not use that word lightly. According to a national survey that was carried out recently, the local and regional road network in County Monaghan is the worst in the entire country. It has become so bad that we are now in a crisis situation.

  Counties Monaghan and Cavan are unique by virtue of the large proportion of the population who are living in rural areas. Unfortunately, County Monaghan has not seen the presence of multinationals. It has generally been left to the good people of the county to create employment through indigenous enterprises in areas like agriculture, agrifood and engineering. Many of those enterprises are located on small bóithríns the length and breadth of the county. They are totally dependent on the road network to get their goods and supplies to and from the marketplace. The road network is of critical importance because we do not enjoy the luxury of having a rail network connecting us to the major ports and cities of this country.

  Some roads in the Cavan-Monaghan area are totally impassable as a result of recent storms. I know of three roads in County Cavan that are closed off completely to vehicular traffic. The Minister comes from the city of Dublin, where the good people enjoy a good road network. As he has accepted previously, it can be difficult for those who come from cities to get a picture of how bad rural roads are. The roads are so bad at the moment that many of them are impassable. It is very unfair to ask taxpayers and citizens of this country to travel on such roads on a daily basis as they bring their children to school or go to work.

  It is time for action. While I do not mean to pre-empt the Minister's response, I have no doubt that he will say the Government has increased the allocation for local and regional roads. While I accept that this is the case, the amount of money that is available is unfortunately not nearly enough to address the serious situation we are facing. I invite the Minister to visit counties Monaghan and Cavan to see for himself exactly what we are talking about. We would be glad to welcome him for a few hours some day. I want him to see that when I talk about the crisis in local roads in County Monaghan, it is not a figment of my imagination. This is real life. It has reached a critical stage. I look forward to the Minister's response. I look forward to his visit to County Monaghan to see for himself exactly what we are talking about.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I thank Senator Gallagher for bringing this matter before the House. I welcome the opportunity to speak on it again. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of local authorities in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on such roads are matters for the relevant local authorities to fund from their own resources, supplemented by State road grants. As State grants are intended to supplement local authority funding, my Department continues to emphasise to local authorities the importance of prioritising road maintenance when allocating their own resources.

  I fully appreciate the importance of the road network in supporting the economic and social fabric of rural areas. The size of the Irish road network, which is twice the European average per capita, presents real funding pressures for the Exchequer and for local authorities. In the years since the financial crisis, the challenge has been how to address real concerns about the condition of the road network while operating within severe fiscal constraints and dealing with the many competing demands for limited resources. I know the Deputy will argue that the financial crisis is well in the past, but the reality is that we are still recovering from the impact on the maintenance and improvement of the road network of the severe post-2008 funding cutbacks associated with the recession.

  In order to avoid deterioration in the condition of the regional and local road network, each year 5% of the network needs to be strengthened and 5% needs to be sealed through surface dressing works. Expenditure is still falling well short of that. Against the backdrop of funding constraints, my Department has focused on maintaining the network in as serviceable a condition as possible. This has meant concentrating resources on the maintenance and renewal of the public road network rather than on new projects. The main grant programmes operated by the Department - the restoration maintenance, restoration improvement and discretionary grants - are allocated based on the length of the road network in each local authority area. I see this as the most equitable approach.

  As Minister, I have to work within the budget available to my Department. Under the national development plan, a gradual build-up in capital funding is planned towards the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. The plan recognises it will take time to restore funding to the level required to maintain and renew the network adequately. It is important to note that overall grant allocations this year included significant increases and marked an important step in the right direction. It seems to me that very few Senators and Deputies are giving the Department credit for the large increases that have been provided for this year. Local authorities have been told that the final allocations for this year have been made and that they will have to look to their own resources thereafter.

  I know the situation in County Monaghan is critical, just as it is in many places in this country. The Senator is absolutely right when he says that this is a real problem. The increase in resources that has already been provided for this year does not seem to have been properly appreciated or acknowledged. For example, the grant allocations included an 18% increase for the key road strengthening programme. I have taken important initiatives in the area of community involvement schemes and drainage. Following the publication of the national planning framework and the national development plan, my Department is working on a planning, land use and transport outlook study, known as PLUTO 2040, which will revisit and build on the 2015 strategic framework for land transport. This work will develop an updated strategic framework for transport planning and investment, including for roads.

  I am sensitive to the case which has been made by the Senator and other Senators who are from Border areas. I am aware of the real problems in areas other than roads that are being faced in counties Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal because of Brexit. We are conscious that when Brexit arrives, these areas will have huge demands and critical needs. The Senator must be aware that we have to work within the financial constraints we unfortunately inherited. We will do whatever we can within those constraints to improve the roads to which he has referred.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I thank the Minister for his response. The people of County Monaghan, like the people of other counties throughout Ireland, are more than grateful for any funding they get from any Department. I appreciate that the Minister has to make a case to the Cabinet on the local road network. I understand that there is only so much he can do in this regard. We are in a crisis situation in County Monaghan and indeed throughout rural Ireland. Our economy will suffer further unless something is done about this. As the Minister has said, we are looking down the barrel of Brexit. No one knows what effect it will have on us. We can be sure it will be negative.

  I would like the Minister to bring a message back to the Government. Something needs to be done to address the crisis situation we are in. Although the funding mentioned by the Minister is welcome, it is totally inadequate by comparison with what is needed.  In order for us to address this issue I again plead with the Minister to visit County Monaghan to see the condition of the road network. I would welcome his response to that invitation.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I understand the crying need to which the Senator refers. We have tried to meet part of that need and similar demands from other parts of the country. The allocation to County Monaghan for regional and local roads increased from €7.684 million in 2017 to €9.097 million this year, which is a fair increase. I will not give the Senator the detailed figures as I am sure he is familiar with them. They included grants for restoration improvement, restoration maintenance, discretionary grants, bridge rehabilitation, specific grants for strategic regional and local roads, safety improvement works, speed limits, training grants and drainage works, which make up a total allocation of €9 million. Monaghan County Council also received a community involvement scheme, CIS, allocation of €186,000 and ring-fenced funding is being made available for that.

  People in Monaghan should not feel forgotten but they are entitled to feel that the funding we have provided is inadequate. We accept that funding is not sufficient to meet the demands of all the local authorities. However, we have increased the allocations for roads and we hope to be able to increase them again. As I indicated, 5% of the network needs to be strengthened and a further 5% sealed every year. Calling on this level of expenditure every year will be very demanding and we do not expect to reach a steady state for another couple of years.

  I will be delighted to come to Monaghan and will do so. I do not want to give the Senator a date now because people tend to keep me to dates and then I tend not to keep to them myself. I visited the county last year and I will do so again in the foreseeable future because I understand that there is nothing like seeing this for oneself to know how critical the difficulties are.

Message from Dáil

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Dáil Éireann passed the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017 on 13 June 2018, to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired.

  Sitting suspended at 11.03 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m. 

Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is Nos. 1 and 2, motions re Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 and Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 - continuance of certain provisions, to be taken at 12.45 p.m., to be discussed together and to conclude within 85 minutes if not previously concluded, with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, time can be shared, and those of all other Senators not to exceed four minutes, and the Minister to be given an extra four minutes to reply to the debate; No. 3, motion re commission of investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse to be taken on the conclusion of Nos. 1 and 2 and to conclude within 60 minutes if not previously concluded, with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed eight minutes, time can be shared, and the Minister to be given an extra four minutes to reply to the debate; No. 4, motion re appointment of a member to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 3 and to conclude within 60 minutes if not previously concluded, with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed eight minutes, time can be shared, and the Minister to be given an extra four minutes to reply to the debate; and No. 5, statements on matters related to a fatal road traffic collision causing the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell in 2011, to be taken on the conclusion of No. 4 and to conclude within 60 minutes if not previously concluded, with the contributions of all Senators not to exceed eight minutes, time can be shared, and the Minister to be given an extra four minutes to reply to the debate.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I am sure the Leas-Chathaoirleach will join me in welcoming to Kerry tomorrow the Prince of Wales and the Duchess, and I have no doubt he is looking forward to the visit.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I referred to it yesterday on the Order of Business.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly As you should.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I also referred to it at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Sligo over the weekend.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Most appropriate. I am surprised to see the Leader of the House-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Will we sing God Save the Queen at the opening of business?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I do not think so.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Perhaps Senator Norris would lead us off in a tune later. He is most welcome to Kerry, of course. I am surprised to see the Leader of the House here because I would have assumed he would be down in Cork, welcoming the Prince of Wales and the Duchess.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was not invited.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Of course, this is an important part of the ongoing building of relationships between these two islands, especially in light of Brexit but also in regard to the issue of the Good Friday Agreement and building bridges, which is an important part of the work of Government.

  As well as that local issue, I would also like to raise another local issue of which the Leas-Chathaoirleach will be aware, namely, the amount of plastic that is appearing on Little Skellig, one of the world heritage sites designated by UNESCO. Some 70,000 gannets are nesting there, but most of their nesting material is plastic.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer There are a few gannets here.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan It is a very serious issue.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly The plastic has been mounting up in recent years given that 18 billion tonnes of plastic is dumped into the sea every year. I ask the Leader to organise a debate on that issue. Not only is it appearing on our coastline, but it is now appearing in the food chain, as highlighted in a study by NUI Galway in regard to its analysis of the fish being extracted from the sea. We might organise a debate.

  Today is the first anniversary of the killing and death of 71 people in Grenfell Tower in London.  As I am sure we all know, we have spoken before in this House about the Corporate Manslaughter Bill. As well as all of the analysis and investigation taking place into the Grenfell Tower fire in London, the UK police are investigating two organisations, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the local tenant management organisation, in regard to potential corporate manslaughter laws. Unfortunately, in England nobody can go to jail for the deaths of the 71 people who lost their lives because of what the UK did in its corporate manslaughter law. The Government is proposing to do exactly what the UK did when my corporate manslaughter legislation comes before the House on, I hope, 27 June, as I outlined to the Leader yesterday during our meeting.

  We must bear in mind the offences for which people are sent to jail under corporate law. A company director can go to jail for up to ten years for price fixing, engaging in theft or fraud or interfering with information. Under a justice Bill proposed by the Government, a person may be sentenced to ten years in prison for corruption. However, the Government proposes to remove from the forthcoming Bill on corporate manslaughter the section providing for jail sentences for corporate manslaughter. The Bill was proposed by the Law Reform Commission arising from the hepatitis C scandal. We now have the CervicalCheck scandal. Mrs. Vicky Phelan has represented people in this country and shown enormous courage and bravery. All she wants is to ensure no one else endures what she is enduring. As politicians, we are obliged to make sure nobody else experiences such failures and, therefore, we need to pass the Bill, as a matter of urgency.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator has had an adequate bite at the cherry.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I thank the Leas-Cathaoirleach.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator raised three rather than two issues.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan He also had injury time to boot.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Most of my time was spent responding to the Leas-Chathaoirleach's welcoming of Prince Charles to the Lakes of Killarney tomorrow.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I thought it was the Senator who mentioned the subject first.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly I hope he receives his well deserved knighthood.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is enough of that baloney.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Please God-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Have a bit of faith, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly -----if the Leas-Chathaoirleach needs a sword at the Lakes of Killarney tomorrow, I have one handy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I call Senator Boyhan.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Order, please.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Tomorrow, Prince Charles can knight the Leas-Chathaoirleach on the spot in the town square in Killarney.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Under a large branch of rhododendrons.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will present Prince Charles with the Order of Innisfallen. I call Senator Victor Boyhan.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I refer first to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. I saw some NTPF staff seated downstairs in the LH2000 building earlier. Perhaps they were due to attend a meeting of a joint committee. The public outpatient waiting list for consultants was published in the national newspapers today. More than 511,000 people are awaiting treatment, which is extremely disappointing. I will not be exclusively critical and ask Senators to hear me out. We have a major crisis. The latest NTPF figures have been published today and the NTPF has confirmed that the number of people waiting for treatment has increased by 4,000 since its previous report was published in April. It is interesting to note that 80,000 of those waiting for treatment have been waiting for more than 18 months. Large numbers of people need treatment. This is a difficult issue and my main concern is that 16,255 children await special paediatric services.

  It would be remiss of me not to mention the NTPF figures. They are disappointing and require action. Having made some inquiries, I received a note confirming that €55 million was made available to the National Treatment Purchase Fund to tackle these issues last April, which is welcome. I suggest that the Leader arranges, perhaps in a month or two or even in September, a debate on this issue. We must monitor the situation and I ask Senators who are members of the Joint Committee on Health to raise this matter with the NTPF staff if they are before the committee today.

  On the local boundaries commission, I have no doubt that yesterday's figures on the new boundaries are legitimate and independent. We should implement the suggestion made by a former joint committee dealing with the environment and local government to establish an independent electoral commission to oversee elections and referenda and promote engagement with the political process. It will be important to do this at some point in the future.

  This morning, a delegation of 18 officials from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions attended a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government. The issue ICTU asked us to pursue relates to Irish Water. ICTU made the following statement.

We believe there is broad public support for the holding of a constitutional referendum to prevent the future privatisation of the public water system. We note that the Minister has confirmed that he is willing to facilitate such holding of a referendum. We understand that a Bill to give effect to the holding of a referendum is currently under consideration. We would urge all parties to co-operate and ensure that this referendum is held as soon as possible.

Is there a plan to hold a referendum on the privatisation of Irish Water within the next year?

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I raise an issue of extreme importance and urgency that emerged almost by accident at yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care. The committee Chairman, Senator Joan Freeman, was made aware that three consultant psychiatrists in Waterford and Wexford had resigned their positions together and that the fourth consultant for the south east region was on sick leave. Is the consultant on extended sick leave? If so, it will mean the region will be left completely bereft of expert mental healthcare from mid-July. It will also disable the operation of most, if not all, mental healthcare services in the region if junior staff, non-consultant hospital doctors, psychologists and occupational therapists are left without senior staff to guide and authorise their work. I have no desire to create panic but the situation in the region has been deteriorating for a long time. I have raised the issue a number of times and was told the Government planned to improve conditions in mental health facilities for patients and staff. Unfortunately, we have heard from both groups about growing waiting lists, deteriorating working conditions and poor service delivery. This is leading to worse outcomes for patients and is necessitating more expensive treatments and a higher incidence of emergency care.

  Even if the HSE begins a recruitment process immediately, the staff required will not be in place for a long time. At present, as many as 500 places are unfilled nationally and, incredibly, 26 psychiatric nurse positions are vacant in the south east region. Recruitment can take up to six months with nurses having to undergo a recruitment process that involves 25 steps. That the staffing problem is more acute in the south east is sadly demonstrated by the extreme waiting times faced by many young people and the number of tragic suicides among young people in the past year.

  Last April, the report by the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care highlighted chronic understaffing and an over-reliance on agency staff to temporarily fill positions. Yesterday, the annual report of the Ombudsman for Children was published. The report revealed that young people facing mental health problems experienced shortcomings in services, which are manifested in stressed and overworked staff who are left unable to deliver the desired standard of care. The waiting lists are long and move very slowly. The problem is particularly acute for young people who are in dire need of emergency care and at severe risk of self-harm. Mental healthcare does not have to be like this. We need a significant increase in investment in mental healthcare in the region in one sharp move. Such a move would illustrate that the region is not a bad place to work and that proper care can be delivered in a timely manner.

  The Sláintecare plan advocated the prioritisation of primary care to save money, achieve better outcomes and help ensure people can avoid seeking the help they need in emergency departments. The same approach needs to be applied to mental healthcare in Waterford and the south east region. Young people, in particular, need to get the help they deserve without having to fight, beg and plead. Previous Governments and the HSE have presided over closures and the concentration of services to the detriment of patients. Previous regional hospitals enjoyed greater control over hiring policies that helped them adapt best to the prevailing need.

  I appeal to the Leader to ensure the legacy of this Government is not a crisis in mental health in the south east. I must do more than simply make an appeal, as a citizen of Waterford and a representative of the south east region. I must insist on hearing how the Government will manage the short-term crisis presented by the staffing shortfall caused by the resignation of two consultant psychiatrists and how the Government will prevent the crisis from continuing to drive professionals out of the service in the future. I insist that the Leader invites the Minister for Health to the House after the debate on the motion this afternoon. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business to that effect because the current position in the south east cannot be allowed to continue.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is moving an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister come in, but when?

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I propose that he comes in after the motions this afternoon.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is the Senator's proposal.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan Yes.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I want to raise the case of Chidi Muojeke who is threatened with deportation along with her family. They have been residents here for 12 years. She fled Nigeria after the death of her husband when she then became the property of her brother-in-law. She was subjected to domestic violence with no means of remedy. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is not viewed as valid criteria for refugee status in Ireland. I am calling for the inclusion of such abuse in the criteria and I ask that the Minister for Justice and Equality grant this very genuine family leave to remain here for its own protection.

  I want to raise the issue of the ever-increasing administrative workload of teaching principals. Many teaching principals are based in small rural schools. They have been asked to take on this role in order to make the school viable. These people are real educational leaders in their communities but they are expected to teach several different primary-level students in one classroom as well as fulfil the vast array of other responsibilities. These teaching principals only get 15 days a year to carry out these administrative tasks. These tasks are important elements of keeping the school running such as maintaining contact with the Department of Education and Skills, Tusla, the INTO, the inspectorate, psychologists and local authorities. I have a whole list of duties that principals need to do. From talking to teaching principals in Mayo, I know that the situation is becoming intolerable. They are asking for one piece of administrative time per day per week, which would mean 36 such periods per year. They have been promised some form of resolution for ten years but have seen no improvement. In reality, these principals pick up a lot of the slack when it comes to providing State services. In many cases, they are the eyes and ears in terms of child welfare, whether it involves poverty, medical issues or educational development. Recently, the Minister announced new powers to compel schools to open special classes where any identification was needed. I very much welcome that but without cutting these principals some slack and allowing for the administrative duties they must do, this will not be possible. I have a list of the official duties that principals must fulfil during a school year. It is hard to imagine how any human being could get through this in a year never mind teach several classes at the same time. I want the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House and to recognise that there is a problem here. I want a full debate on this matter. This is not something the Government can ignore. So many small schools rely on these teaching principals and it would spell disaster for many schools if they were to leave their posts. Many of them are talking about doing so. The Government should remedy this problem or reintroduce the principal post as full time. Doing nothing is not an option. The cost to the teachers, students and the communities is too much. I have just come out of a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. It is not a matter of resources. The committee was meeting PTSB and we discussed corporation tax. PTSB has not had to pay corporation tax for 23 years. All of that money, which I think was €260 million last year, could be used. All these teachers are asking for is one day per week where they can do this administrative work and do it quickly. We must remember that if something goes wrong within a school, some box is not ticked, something happens or something goes wrong, the buck stops with them. They need time and resources to be able to do their jobs. I ask that the Minister comes to the House to discuss this topic.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I second Senator Kelleher's amendment to the Order of Business.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I think Senator Norris means Senator Grace O'Sullivan's amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I beg your pardon. I apologise. I call for a debate on transport. About 35 years ago, I was one of the principal organisers of the Dublin crisis conference where we focused on reclaiming Dublin as a living city. We now have a situation where apparently 1,200 front gardens are going to taken over by the NTA to create a series of express bus routes. This is part of the continuing disaster on the part of whatever imbeciles are in charge of the transport network in this country. People will open their front doors not on to a garden but straight on to the street. What about the pollution from diesel fumes? We are really degrading people's lives. Instead of having them living in a living city, we have them living in an industrial environment. This is an appalling situation. What they really should have done is put in an underground railway. I said this 30 years ago in this House and got very strong support from all sides. We were nearly there and then the Government lost its nerve at the very last minute but it is still not too late. An orbital underground system could be installed. I doubt if a message coming from this House to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport from his former senatorial colleague will carry a perfumed aroma but I would ask the Leader to transmit to Senator Ross that there is somebody in this country-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Minister Ross.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What did I call him?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Ross.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Oh well, whatever he is. He is a Minister and he has that responsibility.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan He was in the House for two Commencement matters this morning.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I suggest that the Minister contacts one person who has been consistently right about transport matters and who is rather non-aggressive. He is not all pushy and does not really promote his own ideas but he is somebody who has a really clear understanding of the transport situation. I understand he is an adviser to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. His name is Cormac Rabbitt. The Minister should talk to Cormac Rabbitt about the possibility of putting in an orbital underground network even at this stage. Although a surface tram suits me perfectly, gets me here every day and is an excellent system for those people for whom it works, I pointed out in this House 25 years ago that one could not increase the length of a surface tram because of traffic disruption or increase the frequency of the tram whereas one could do both with an underground system. Recently, Luas tried to increase the length of its trams and it led to total traffic chaos and congestion. We told them that 25 years ago. I wish they would listen and in particular, that they would listen to the gentle and informed voice of Cormac Rabbitt.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Two days ago, I raised an issue concerning Irish Water, the lack of supply and the number of outages, particularly in Skerries, so I welcome the fact that following that, we had a meeting with Irish Water. I commend the residents for their determination to have this matter resolved. Arising from the meeting, there was a worrying element. The focus is rightly on finding an immediate, short-term and medium-term solution so I welcome the fact that Irish Water will put in booster pumps in Skerries and also put in a booster pump to fill the reservoir at Thomastown which supplies Skerries. However, there is a need, which is felt by the residents, for an independent report to be commissioned by the Minister to find out what the problem is because it was quite apparent last night that neither Fingal County Council nor Irish Water was 100% sure what the problem is. I very much believe that if one does not know what is causing a problem, the likelihood of finding a permanent solution to it diminishes considerably. I call on the Minister to commission an independent report that should not take a huge length of time to discover the cause of this difficulty. It cannot be explained by the stretch of good weather. As I said, there have been 20 outages over the past 18 months. I welcome the fact that Fingal County Council was at the meeting.  Again, there are two agencies involved and we need somebody from outside to do the report.

  The other issues raised were around the regulatory authority and what rights people have. It seems reasonable that neither Fingal County Council nor Irish Water would be responsible for what happens inside the boundary of a private dwelling, but if issues outside the boundary result in damage to property inside the boundary it does not seem to be fair or natural justice. When there are outages without warning and people are at work they cannot turn off their pumps, the pumps keep running and they burn out, or the house pipes become full of airlocks. Most people are not skilled in the art of bleeding out airlocks. It is a simple enough procedure if one is a plumber and knows the trade. This sort of issue costs people a lot of money. I would like to call on the regulator to give us some ruling on its role on the rights of consumers in this regard. These people paid €4,000 apiece for their water connection and the least they can expect is the service they paid for, and not to be regularly sustaining damage and costs because of burnt out pumps and airlocks, and in some cases washing machines breaking down. I ask the Leader to ask the Minister about this. I call on the Minister, through the good offices of the Leader, to instigate and commission an independent report into the causes of these problems in water supply in the Fingal area.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Senator Boyhan referred to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, which the previous Government thought was not a particularly good idea but has reinstated. Senator Boyhan was a director of the NTPF for two terms. The NTPF did great work in the mid-2000s onwards. Given the current waiting lists, the NTPF needs to be resourced to deliver quickly to those people who have waited a long time on waiting lists for procedures. Many people are waiting for far too long, far beyond what they should be waiting, and often in great discomfort.

  With regard to insurance fraud, the Alliance for Insurance Reform gave a presentation in the audiovisual room this morning, which was attended by Senators, including Senators McFadden and Mulherin. We saw very serious examples of blatant fraud such as people going into licensed premises, restaurants and shops and staging accidents. Only for the CCTV footage there would have been payouts in these cases. In many cases these incidents involve a family industry and these people are known to the Garda for staging fraud. We do not, however, have a fraud unit within An Garda Síochána to look at these cases.

  The costs of insurance working group recommended such a measure and I call on the Leader to have a debate on the costs of insurance, especially fraud, and the setting up of a Garda unit that would deal with fraud and prosecute people who are shown to be bringing in false cases. We are all paying for it. Everybody is paying for these fraudulent cases. It is not just happening in motor insurance; it happens in the licensed trade, the restaurant trade and shops. There is a premises in County Mayo that had to close recently because its insurance premium had gone from €5,000 in 2014-15 to €55,000 this year. This is unsustainable and the business had to close with the loss of more than 20 jobs.

  There are many other such examples around the State of premises under pressure. We have been told that street performers will not exist in the next few years because a stilt walker or a tightrope walker, for example, will not get insurance as it will become too expensive. It is a very serious issue. People are making an industry out of it.

  At the briefing by the Alliance for Insurance Reform we were told of a person who had said that if he was short of cash he could rob a bank or stage an accident. He said that if a person got caught staging an accident there are no repercussions but if a person got caught robbing a bank, obviously there are. This is what some people in society are doing. It needs to be looked at.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh The Senator-----

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Let us not start robbing banks now, and not from your lot.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Gerry.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I hope the coalition partners are not falling out.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Senator Conway-Walsh started it. It is important to have a debate on the issue of insurance fraud and on whether or not An Garda Síochána should be resourced to tackle it. The Minister was before the committee some weeks ago and said that gardaí were to be diverted away from crime into fraud. Fraud is a crime, however, and the exaggeration and staging of claims are all fraud. We are all paying for it. It costs people jobs and businesses. It costs us all in our premiums. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on that matter.

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I have just spent two very interesting days in Westminster, and was there during a Brexit vote. I brought our emigrant Senator Billy Lawless to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain to talk about emigration reform and votes for emigrants. There is huge goodwill in Westminster and the House of Lords, among all the parties and Members, towards the island of Ireland. We met with Conor McGinn, MP, from the island of Ireland and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group. Mr. McGinn was one of the 75 Labour Party MPs who defied the Whip and voted on the EEA amendment in the Brexit vote. This is why I missed the first two days of this week's sitting.

  The Taoiseach's visit to Belfast last weekend was absolutely incredible with the welcome he received outside the Orange Order headquarters in east Belfast, and when launching Féile an Phobail. Sometimes in life politicians can be behind the curve and on this occasion maybe we are behind the curve. We speak about an agreed Ireland and things are moving at a great pace. I have said on many occasions that we must look at membership of the Commonwealth, and people wondered what was going on. If we want an agreed Ireland there must be accommodation for Ireland joining the Commonwealth. Dan O'Brien in today's Irish Independent said, "A united Ireland [is] only possible if it isn't a cold house for Unionists."

  I ask that Fianna Fáil Senators would listen very carefully to my final point. I was at a conference three weeks ago in Liverpool. Bryce Evans is a lecturer in history based in Liverpool and the author of a 2011 biography of Seán Lemass. On page 214 of the book it says that on a visit to London by de Valera and Frank Aiken in 1958, de Valera secretly sounded out British opinion on the prospect of a united Ireland joining the Commonwealth. In 1953, Éamon de Valera allegedly informed Churchill - again in London - that if he had been in office as Taoiseach in 1948 Ireland would not have left the Commonwealth.

  I am in very good company. Again I say, that if we want our friends and neighbours to actually join an agreed Ireland - and I am aware it is far too early - there has to be some link with the Commonwealth. Perhaps I am just ahead of the curve, but I am delighted, and I would probably follow de Valera in this regard.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Good man; another follower of Dev.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I do not know if that was rather a curve ball.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Another recruit for the cause.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I echo the remarks of Senator Norris earlier about the chaos about to happen in Dublin regarding public transport. I am delighted that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who has been missing in action for so long, was on "Today with Sean O'Rourke" and I look forward to listening to his great knowledge on transport and to hear what his solutions are. He has not been very much involved in his own Department until now.

  Today is an historic week. It marks the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which happened on 24 June 1993. Senator Norris was a great campaigner on this issue and he should be proud of the work he did on it. The issue was part of the Labour Party's programme for Government when we went into government with Fianna Fáil. The then Minister for Justice, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, ably carried the legislation through.

  I acknowledge the work the Leader has done with Senator Nash with regard to an apology that will be issued to those men who were convicted, some of whom were imprisoned and brutally treated. Unfortunately some of those men are no longer with us, but this is not a reason not to issue the apology. The Taoiseach has agreed with Senator Nash that an apology will be issued. I acknowledge the work of Senator Nash in this regard.  I also acknowledge the work done by the Leader in facilitating the legislation. It was a good day's work when Senator Nash brought the Bill to the House. It will be debated next week in the Seanad and Dáil. This is another step forward for this country in terms of modernisation and recognising all citizens as being equal. We still have a distance to go but this is another step in the right direction. I acknowledge all those who played a role in this issue. There are many more than I can mention. I look forward to the day in Dublin Castle, which as well as being sad will be a celebration of how far this country has moved in recent decades. I thank the Leader for the assistance he has given to Senator Nash on the Bill. I am pleased we will be able to bring it to a conclusion next week.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I concur with Senator Horkan. He and a number of others attended the presentation by the Alliance for Insurance Reform. One could only come away from it being quite shocked that, notwithstanding the Government's working group on the cost of insurance, shopkeepers, publicans and people running businesses are in an awful predicament. No longer is insurance a safety net to which one resorts for help in unforeseen circumstances. The cost of insurance and public liability is a threat to the operation of businesses. A pub in my county had to shut down because its premium for public liability insurance increased from €5,000 to €55,000 in three years. We were told of a case in Galway where a public liability insurance premium increased from €17,000 to €107,000 in three years. How could any business hope to pay such an increase?

  There seems to be a culture whereby people feel justified in making money through insurance fraud and they stage accidents to that end. We saw footage which was very incriminating but I believe no prosecutions have been made in regard to it. The Civil Liability (Amendment) Act deals with exaggerated and misleading claims but it seems there have been very few, if any, prosecutions under it. Nobody has been held to account. Businesses that are employing people are closing.

  We are being told that late night trading and the chance to go dancing late at night will become a thing of the past. We must act. These businesses pay tax and employ people. It is our responsibility to act. The establishment of the Garda insurance fraud unit must be at the top of the list of priorities. The unit will be funded by the insurance industry and must be set up immediately. The Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, must come before the House to set out what actions have been taken on foot of the report of the working group. We must get to grips with this issue because society is being crippled by the costs of insurance premiums and claims. It is not beyond us to get to grips with the issue but we are not doing so at the moment.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I raise the crippling workload imposed on school principals. With the increased workload relating to administration and compliance, school principals are finding it very difficult to do what they are good at and what there are paid for, namely, teaching. When one considers that 50% of school principals teach a class full time it is very difficult for them to take on extra duties. It is very unfair on them. School principals should be spending their time teaching and learning as that is what they are trained to do. The ever-increasing workload and responsibility that comes with being a school principal is becoming impossible to manage.

  Not alone are school principals responsible for teaching but they also have the responsibility for administration and implementing aspects of new legislation that affect their schools. They are also responsible for staff, pupils, the maintenance of the school building and fundraising. It has reached the point that they need more time to perform their role properly. The current position is unfair on principals, teachers and pupils as well. I understand principals have been in contact with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, on the issue. I urge the Leader, who has some experience in this regard, to bring our concerns on the plight of school principals to the Minister so that mechanisms and procedures can be put in place to rectify the problem. The workload has expanded to such an extent that it is impossible for principals to carry on and it is unfair to ask them to do so.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the ten Members of the House who contributed on the Order of Business. I join Senator Mark Daly and your good self, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, in welcoming the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to Cork today and to Kerry tomorrow. As Senator Mark Daly rightly said, it is about building bridges and in a post-Brexit era cementing the Good Friday Agreement but also recognising the diversity that exists and that friendships are being forged. While I was not invited to the gathering today in Cork, I am delighted-----

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly The Leader is welcome in Kerry any time.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----that peace has broken out between Senator Mark Daly and the Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senator Coghlan, and that they can both share in the royal visit tomorrow to beauty's home.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am sure Senator Daly will join me in enjoying the cucumber sandwiches and the strawberries and cream.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Lovely.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan And the gin and tonic.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I hope you will have more than cucumber sandwiches, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

Senator Mark Daly: Information on Mark Daly Zoom on Mark Daly Some nice cupcakes would be lovely.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is an historic visit which builds on the visit of the Queen to Ireland. Is it not great that we have Senator Feighan who can travel and speak so eloquently and so passionately across Europe-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan And the world.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----and the world as well, championing EU-Ireland-UK relations but, more important, North-South and Ireland-UK relations? To be fair to him, the work he does perhaps goes under the radar and is not recognised in the way it should be. I thank him for that work. I know I am repeating myself but today is an extraordinary day that we have Prince Charles visiting. The welcome he will receive in Cork and Kerry is a sign of the maturity in our country.

  I join Senator Mark Daly in acknowledging that we must tackle the large amount of plastic in the oceans. The Senator referred to the Little Skellig. World Oceans Day took place last week. The EU has imposed a ban on ten single-use plastic items. Senator Grace O'Sullivan has repeatedly made the point that we cannot ignore any longer the negative impact of plastics on the oceans. It is something we must tackle. I am happy to have the Minister come to the House in regard to the matter raised.

  Today, we also remember the people who were tragically killed in the Grenfell Tower fire. A total of 71 people lost their lives. The inquiry is ongoing. It is worth remembering that those people were killed and the families of the bereaved deserve answers. Senator Mark Daly referred to the Corporate Manslaughter (No. 2) Bill 2016, which he introduced. I am aware that he has been engaging with the Department on the issue. As Leader, I will not stop the Bill coming before the House. That is a matter for the Senator and the Department and I hope there will be positive engagement with the Senator on the matter.

  Senators Boyhan and Horkan raised the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. As Senator Boyhan rightly acknowledged, an extra €55 million was allocated to the fund this year. We have seen an attempt to tackle inpatient day cases with an action plan which has been promoted, promulgated and published by the Department of Health, the HSE and the NTPF.  Some 1.14 million hospital operations or procedures will take place this year and the NTPF will deliver 20,000 day case treatments. I accept the points made by Senators Victor Boyhan and Gerry Horkan about the figures being too high, but the previous Government did not get rid of the NTPF. Through the special delivery unit, we used moneys to reduce inpatient waiting times to eight months and waiting times for patients on trolleys by one third. This issue needs to be addressed because the numbers are unacceptably high. I make no apology for the fact that we should invest more through Sláintecare.

  I welcome the boundary commission's publication. Yesterday was like Christmas Eve for many local authority members, as well as Senators. There are some who will be happy and some who will be unhappy. The Minister published the independent report last night and I hope it will be enacted soon. I will be happy to have a debate on it.

  I do not believe there is a plan to privatise Irish Water. The all-party Oireachtas committee did not entertain the idea. As such, I am not sure if there will be a referendum on the issue. To the best of my knowledge, there definitely will not be such a referendum in the autumn, but I will endeavour to find out for the Senator.

  Senator Grace O'Sullivan referred to the resignations yesterday in the south east. It is an important issue. Notwithstanding the fact that an extra €200 million has been allocated for mental health services, there has been a recruitment campaign. Of the 44 posts advertised, no applications were received for one quarter of them, while only one was received for 30%. There is a failure to recruit. From my inquiries, the Minister of State responsible, Deputy Jim Daly, is not in Leinster House today and the Minister for Health is in the Dáil. However, I would be happy to facilitate a debate early next week, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the Ministers' availability.

  Senator Rose Conway-Walsh raised the issue of Ms Muojeke's deportation. I am not familiar with the issue, but if the Senator gives me the information, I will be happy to give it to the relevant Minister.

  Senators Rose Conway-Walsh and Robbie Gallagher raised the issue of teaching principals. The INTO's pre-budget briefing session is being held today. I will attend it later. I acknowledge the work principals are doing, particularly walking principals who have to balance being teachers with their administrative duties. More must be done in that regard. This and previous Governments have introduced measures for all principals, but there is a sliding scale. Listening to the Senators, one would swear there had been no investment in primary education, but there has. Recruitment has allowed posts of responsibility to be restored, while there has been investment in other aspects, for example, school buildings and the provision of special needs assistants and teachers. However, we need to do more regarding walking principals. A significant burden is being imposed on them in that they are now charged with managing staff, parents, boards of management and students and ensuring their schools are sufficiently resourced. I will be happy to organise a debate on the matter with the Minister for Education and Skills who has been in the House a number of times.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Specifically on this matter.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Yes.

  Senators David Norris and Kevin Humphreys have the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, on their brains constantly. The Minister has frequently participated in Seanad debates on transport. As a group of legislators, we need to reflect on our transport needs. This is national bike week. Part of the problem, one that I see in Cork, is that we are promoting an alternative to use of the car on roads and streets that have not been designed for public transport or vast volumes of traffic. We must make realignments. I will be happy to have the Minister attend the House to discuss the issue.

  Senator James Reilly mentioned Skerries. I commend him for being proactive on the matter. He is correct, in that an independent report is needed on the difficulties being faced in Skerries where there have been up to 20 water outages and residents have been discommoded. I will be happy to arrange a debate on the issue.

  I agree with Senators Gerry Horkan and Michelle Mulherin on the issue of public liability insurance. I will be happy to have the Minister of State, Deputy Michael D'Arcy, return to the House to discuss it. There has been a reduction in the cost of car insurance of between 14% and 20% since its peak in 2016, but there is a genuine concern about fraud, claims and public liability insurance. I commend the Senators for their contributions and will be happy to arrange such a debate.

  I will not revisit Senator Frank Feighan's Commonwealth argument, which has been settled, although to be fair, his point was worth reiterating. Last week the Taoiseach visited east and west Belfast where he received a warm reception, recognising that it is a country of green, white and orange. As such, we must represent all of the people. Some said he should not have launched the féile, but I disagree. Some said he should not have visited the Orange Order, but I disagree with them, too. Just as a representative of the Orange Order addressed the Seanad, it was a positive move. If we want to build a lasting peace in the country, we must, as Senator Mark Daly said, build bridges that are strong, stable and cemented in communities and people's hearts. We can hold our respective views. Everyone has them. We all value one another as citizens, irrespective of our religion, background and ideology, but let us celebrate the successes and ensure a return to power-sharing at Stormont, while also voicing the view that, in terms of Brexit, it is one island.

  I thank Senator Kevin Humphreys for his remarks and commend Senator Gerald Nash for the motion that will be before the House next Tuesday on a public apology. As a member of the LGBT community, it will be an extraordinary event. There will be a commemoration of 25 years of decriminalisation, as well as a public apology to the men who were harmed by a State that made it a cold place for them to live. I thank Members for their co-operation.

  I thank the group leaders and Whips for their co-operation last night when there was a clash with the taking of the justice motion in the Dáil. I appreciate that the email was sent late, but it could not be helped. I thank Members for their support.

  If Senator Grace O'Sullivan accepts my compromise on the amendment proposed, I will be happy to have the debate on next Tuesday or Wednesday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Grace O'Sullivan has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That the Minister for Health attend the Seanad today to discuss the crisis in consultant psychiatric staffing in Waterford and Wexford." She has heard what the Leader had to say. What does she want to do?

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I accept the Leader's comments. I want to see the matter on the Order Paper next week. Otherwise, I will return to the House and call a vote on the issue.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I will include it in the schedule for Tuesday or Wednesday, subject to ministerial availability. It is an important matter and I will pursue it for the Senator via Ms Orla Murray in my office.

  Order of Business agreed to.

  Sitting suspended at 12.30 p.m. and resumed at 12.45 p.m.

Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 and Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motions

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan We are going to take No. 1, motion regarding the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, and No. 2, motion regarding the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998. The motions will be debated together and decided separately. I call on the acting Leader to move No. 1.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden I move:

That Seanad Éireann resolves that section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 (No. 32 of 2009) shall continue in operation for the period beginning on 30 June 2018 and ending on 29 June 2019.”

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank the House for taking these two motions. The House will be aware that the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 was enacted in the wake of the barbaric murder by the Real IRA of 29 innocent people at Omagh in August 1998, 20 years ago. That atrocity demanded this legislative response from the State as a necessary and wholly proportionate measure to defend the desire of the vast majority on this island to live in peace.

  Section 18 of the 1998 Act provides that sections 2 to 4, inclusive, 6 to 12, inclusive, 14 and 17 must be renewed by the Oireachtas at least annually if they are to remain in force. I will not take up too much of the limited time available to me by going through in detail each of the relevant sections of the Act. The report I have provided to the House gives details of the various sections and the offences and other arrangements provided for.

  I would bring to the attention of Senators that one element of section 9, that is subsection (1)(b), is the subject of litigation. This subsection provides for an offence of withholding information which might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person for a serious offence. It was the subject of challenge in the context of an individual case and was declared invalid by the High Court in February. That declaration is being appealed.  The remainder of section 9 is not in question. In the event that the Supreme Court upholds the decision of the High Court that subsection would, of course, be permanently inoperative. The report I laid before the House sets out in more detail than in previous years an assessment of the security situation and while I do not intend to rehearse that, I wish to highlight some aspects.

  The Garda assessment is that there is a real and persistent threat from republican paramilitary groups on this island, the so-called dissidents. These groups have spent the past 20 years trying to destroy the Good Friday Agreement. They are resolute in their opposition to democracy and peace and they are resolute in their commitment to brutality and criminality. I am equally resolute that these terrorists will not succeed. Along with the vast majority of the people of this island, I am firmly resolved in favour of a future founded in peace and reconciliation and I am sure Senators share my resolution.

  I would reference also the threat posed by jihadist-type terrorism. The raw brutality of the attacks we have seen in many countries, including our nearest European neighbours, targeting innocent people going about their daily lives is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of all open democracies to this threat. The security authorities here are alive to the potential threat we face and continue to work closely with their international counterparts in identifying and responding to that threat.

  I pay a particular tribute to the women and men of An Garda Síochána who continue to work tirelessly to preserve life and to counter all forms of terrorism. I pay a tribute also to the men and women of the police and security services in Northern Ireland, with whom the Garda work closely every day to enhance the safety of all communities right across the island.

  I now turn to section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009. This Act was a response to difficulties facing the justice system at a time when certain organised criminal gangs were behaving as though they were beyond the law. Section 8 provides that four particularly serious organised crime offences should be tried in the Special Criminal Court, subject to the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions to direct that they would be tried in the ordinary courts. I will not delay Senators with repeating the detail of what is set out in the report on this section that I have laid before the House in accordance with section 8. That report covers the period from 1 June 2017 to 31 May 2018 and was laid before the House on 11 June 2018. It includes information provided by the Garda Commissioner on the use over the past 12 months of the provisions in question and details of the offences in question. The report notes that no cases came for trial before the Special Criminal Court. However, I do not consider that this invalidates the need for the section to remain in operation. What I will say is that no one in this House, or indeed outside of it, could be under any illusion as to the threat that society and the criminal justice system face from organised crime gangs who will stop at nothing in pursuit of their criminal activities. The Garda authorities continue to work intensively to bear down on these criminal gangs and to disrupt their activities. The Garda deserves praise for the considerable successes it has had against these gangs and with the Government’s support that work will continue.

  Before concluding I wish to refer briefly to the Special Criminal Court. While it is my view that jury trial should be preserved to the greatest possible degree, we cannot be blind to the real threat to the criminal process from groups of terrorists or criminals who have absolutely no regard for the law. The Special Criminal Court was established to respond to the threat to the State and its people from republican terrorism over the decades. It continues to deal with the subversive threat from paramilitary groups and some serious organised crime cases. I reject assertions made elsewhere that the court has operated with bias. Over the years its judges have presided without fear or favour over the prosecution of some of the most dangerous and ruthless terrorists and criminals in this State. The court has proved its value over the years and it continues to do so.

  As set out in the two reports, it is the clear view of An Garda Síochána that the provisions in the 1998 Act and the 2009 Act continue to be the most important in ongoing efforts in the fight against terrorism and serious organised crime. On the basis of the information set out in the report and on the advice of the Garda authorities I now propose that the Seanad should approve the continued operation of the relevant provisions of the 1998 Act and the 2009 Act for a further 12 months due to commence on 30 June 2018.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I thank the Minister for his opening statement. I call Senator Wilson.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I welcome the Minister back to the House. I am speaking on behalf of my colleague, Senator Clifford-Lee. We will support both motions. While I note that the Minister has said that it is necessary for both of these motions to come before the Dáil and Seanad on an annual basis, unfortunately, they seem to be left until the last minute to be brought to the Houses in my experience. However, as the Minister has stated, at the heart of these Acts is the use of the Special Criminal Court. The Special Criminal Court is an important part of the justice infrastructure in this country and is unfortunately absolutely necessary in cases where the threat of violence is undermining the administration of justice. The right to a jury trial and the importance of the presumption of innocence cannot be understated. We do not infringe upon these central tenets of the justice system but the fact remains that there are cases in which the only way justice can be served is through trial by the Special Criminal Court.

  I am more convinced than ever before of the need for our Special Criminal Court for reasons already outlined by the Minister. I want to instance one particular case where only a couple of years ago we had the former leader of Sinn Féin condemning the victim of his friend and good republican, Mr. Thomas "Slab" Murphy. It was interesting to note that during his trial, two of the witnesses who were called by the State, sort of changed their evidence from what they had originally stated to the Garda. In confronting serious criminality, the Garda and the State need to know that they have the force of the Special Criminal Court behind them in such cases. In claiming that it will abolish the Special Criminal Court, it is hard to escape the conclusion that Sinn Féin is putting loyalty to their colleagues and former colleagues ahead of the wider societal need to protect witnesses in certain cases.

  The prevalence of gangland crime which has seen more than 500 people in Dublin issued with active warnings by the Garda that their lives are in danger from criminals has brought numbness to the people. When we hear of the latest assassination we nod with dismay but we must acknowledge the brave, diligent and hardworking members of the Garda who are foiling attempts on a weekly basis and undoubtedly saving lives.

  While acknowledging this, we also have to remain mindful of the increased threat from international terrorism from which the State cannot be considered immune.

  This year we celebrate 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, one of the greatest political achievements in the history of this entire Thirty-two Counties but we must never become complacent. As the Minister has rightly said, the greatest domestic threat to our security in this country at present is unfortunately from republican paramilitary, so-called dissident groups. Because of this, the legislation we are discussing is unfortunately necessary and we as a party fully support it.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I will resist the urge to engage in petty point-scoring because this issue is far too serious. The example cited by my colleague, Senator Wilson, shows just how open to abuse this legislation can be when someone finds themselves in front of a Special Criminal Court on tax-related matters. I wonder how many people from Fianna Fáil who ruined the economy and left so many people devastated and in poverty found themselves in front of Special Criminal Courts.

  Nevertheless, the current motion relates to the Special Criminal Court and specifically to particular provisions under the 1998 and 2009 Acts relating to same. In its current incarnation it dates from May 1972 but its roots are to be found in this State's reaction to the Second World War when it claimed that the IRA threatened its existence. The reality is that the Offences against the State Act and the Special Criminal Court are ineffective relics of a conflict era. We are opposed to their use. They have been and are being retained by successive Governments to deal with threats primarily posed by organised criminal gangs. The Special Criminal Court is rooted in the 20th century. In the early years of this century, a different challenge is being faced and a different response is required.  There is a need for a comprehensive review of emergency legislation in advance of its renewal next year which would focus on how to modernise the criminal justice system to make it responsive to the needs of this State at this time. The Special Criminal Court in all circumstances is a non-jury court. It has been criticised not by Sinn Féin alone but also by Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and the UN Human Rights Council. Society, of course, has to be protected against the murderous and criminal behaviour of organised criminals. The working class communities these gangsters prey on and murder need protection from them. Were this happening in some of the more affluent suburbs in cities across the State, the response might perhaps be different. Sinn Féin fully supports rigorous and effective measures to remove these gangs from the streets and put them into prison.

  In addition to these measures, however, protective measures must be put in place so we should consider the following: creating a specific offence for interfering with jurors; increased penalties for intimidation of jurors; anonymity for jurors and witnesses via screens in courtrooms or, in very particular circumstances, remote location of jurors with video link to the courtroom; restrictions on access to jury lists and abolition of daily roll call of jurors. Sinn Féin would support these provisions. All necessary steps should be taken to ensure the safety of jurors and witnesses. The Government has not even considered these matters.

  Outside the legislative framework, the Government needs to get serious about tackling organised crime. We need the full implementation of the Garda Inspectorate report, Changing Policing in Ireland, and its recommendations on serious crime. By its actions, the Government has failed to show it is committed to properly tackling organised crime. Last year, Dublin lost 100 gardaí. Since 2010 it has lost 1,000 gardaí. Regarding these losses, Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy said we have hit rock bottom when it comes to the recruitment of new personnel. We have seen the redirection of gardaí into specialist units, transfers and the reduction in front-line policing, and there has been a 40% reduction in community policing. This lack of front-line policing has hit the ability of gardaí to understand what is going on in our communities where organised criminals prey on defenceless people. We need further investment in policing and in the communities to help them tackle disadvantage. We need investment in community development, education and employment. This regeneration is essential in those areas where organised crime gangs are recruiting members. This will help towards ending the scourge of serious and organised crime.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway It is regrettable that year after year we have no choice but to renew the provisions of the 1998 Act. More than ever before, these measures are absolutely necessary. The Minister has rightly pointed out the reason the Act had to be brought in back in 1998. The threat to the State and our citizens is as prevalent today as it was then. It has probably become even more prevalent in recent times. We have seen the situation with dissident republicans trying to destroy what has been achieved through the Good Friday Agreement and the work of many people. We see what is going on on the streets of Dublin, where people are being gunned down week after week. It is appropriate that we should pay tribute to An Garda Síochána for the work it has done to try to take some of these criminals off the streets and put them behind bars. The reality is that people are being killed and this legislation and these measures are necessary. We in this House should be open to increasing the provisions of the legislation and giving more powers to the Garda if deemed necessary. We need zero tolerance for any kind of dissident or criminal activity that undermines the State and those living in it.

  I pay tribute to the Minister, Deputy Flanagan. When he was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, he put in a tireless effort to re-establish the institutions in Northern Ireland. It is pitiful today that this still has not happened. Since Deputy Flanagan became Minister for Justice and Equality he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the budgets are there to send people to Templemore. There is to be a passing out parade at Templemore tomorrow. More gardaí are going to be on the streets within the next two weeks - young people who are dedicating their lives to protecting others. The Minister has a very proud record in his short time as Minister for Justice and Equality in terms of getting this country up and safe and ensuring that gardaí are trained and legislation brought in to protect the people.

  It will be wonderful if someday we do not have to renew the measures in the 1998 Act. It is incumbent on everybody with a role to play to ensure that happens. It is the type of future we should be looking for for the next generation. However, until such time as that happens we are going to be here year in, year out, ensuring that the measures are renewed. It is appropriate that we come back every 12 months to do so, to remind people as to the reason the legislation had to be created in the first place.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden The Offences against the State Act came into being for a simple reason, namely, that there were and continue to be people who refuse to recognise the legitimacy of this State. Such people fought and continue to fight to subvert and disrupt the effective administration of law and order. The Act was in place in the 1970s to fight the sort of people who felt they were justified to shoot and beat to death a Member of these Houses. Billy Fox at 35 had served as a Deputy for the then constituency of Monaghan and subsequently as a Senator. He had a lot more to offer his country. His killers, members of the IRA, did not care that he had a mandate from his electorate. They killed him because he was a Protestant.

  The Act was in place in the 1980s to fight the sort of people who shot someone to death because he was a prison officer. Brian Stack was shot in the neck from behind by members of the Provisional IRA as he left a boxing match in Dublin. He was killed because he was doing his job upholding justice in this State. Likewise in the 1980s, the Act was in place to fight the sort of people who shot a soldier on duty. Private Patrick Kelly, a native of the town of Moate in my home county of Westmeath, was a member of the Irish Army, Óglaigh na hÉireann, the only legitimate armed force in the State. Private Kelly was killed while he was involved in the rescue of a kidnapping victim, businessman Don Tidey. The Act was in place in the 1990s to fight the sort of people who deliberately shot a member of An Garda Síochána. Garda Jerry McCabe was brutally gunned down while he sat in his car doing his duty upholding the laws of this State. Then, in 2009, we were treated to Deputy Martin Ferris acting as a welcoming committee on the release from prison of those who murdered Jerry McCabe and the sickening display of support from his Sinn Féin colleagues for those brutish cowards.

  Even in the present day, although the IRA has given up its campaign of violence, the unfortunate reality is that not all who were involved in that campaign have followed suit. A rump of violent dissident republicans still vehemently oppose peace and democracy and still refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the State. They have spent 20 years trying to destroy the Good Friday Agreement and all it stands for. We must not let them succeed. If this was not bad enough, they are now being joined by organised criminal gangs with similar disdain for law and order. These are gangs that order shootings at will, intimidate witnesses and jurors in an attempt to undermine trials, and terrorise and intimidate communities. They are armed and dangerous and they themselves think they are above the law.

  It is exasperating to hear the sort of people who attack the Act saying it impinges on people's rights. What rights were offered to Billy Fox, Jerry McCabe, Brian Stack or Patrick Kelly? The same people go on to criticise the Special Criminal Court-----

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Mary Robinson.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden -----while refusing to condemn kangaroo courts, punishment beatings, shootings, disappearances-----

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Amnesty International.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden -----that were planned and carried out by their colleagues.  I could go on but I will not. In 2018, this Act is in place to fight those who continue to pose a threat to the State and safety and security of its citizens. Whether the threat comes from so-called republicans or organised crime, we should do all in our power to meet that threat and ensure justice prevails for all our citizens.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is regrettable that we have to bring this back every year, but it is necessary. That is the fundamental point. Let us take a picture today. The streets of Cork have been cordoned off because of the visit of Prince Charles. Why should they be cordoned off? It is because there is a potential threat. I support the motion. The importance of the Special Criminal Court is something we cannot dismiss. I will not pick a row, but Senator McFadden said it very well when she said a threat of violence still exists.

  Senator Ó Donnghaile referred to the relics of the past. The relics of the past, to use his words, exist on one side but there are people who are dead and families who have been left without a loved one, as well as the men and women who served our State and protected all of us. That is the reality.

  Some 200 new gardaí will pass out in Templemore tomorrow. The uniform they wear, including the badges they have on their lapels, is about protection and freedom. Today we must pay tribute to the men and women of An Garda Síochána and our Defence Forces. We have only one Army and we must always uphold the rule of law and the legitimacy and independence of our courts. That is why today is important. As we walk in a new Ireland, we recognise differing viewpoints. Some of us have to recognise that we were people who stood by the State and that is why we stand in this Chamber and the Lower House to pass the motion.

  In his speech the Minister said, "There is a real and persistent threat from republican paramilitary groups, the so-called dissidents." That comes from an assessment by An Garda Síochána. I do not want to pick a row with Senator Ó Donnghaile but we know, based on our history and the modern world, what some dissidents are capable of doing, not just in our country but across the world. That is why we need the provisions being put forward today.

  What will we do in 15 days, months or years time if a dissident threat becomes a reality, as happened with the bombing in Omagh, but the legislation has been removed from the Statute Book? What would happen? We may have mixed views about President Trump meeting the North Koreans in Singapore this week. What do we do in a world where dissidents kill? We expect the rule of law to be upheld. We expect juries, judges and prosecutions to operate in a fair and just manner and that is what this is about. I commend the Minister on bringing the motion forward.

  I may not see the Minister again, and wish to commend him on what he will do in this Chamber and the Dáil next week regarding the apology to people from the LGBT community. It takes bravery to come into the House as a Minister and work with Members. In terms of the history of progressiveness in the Fine Gael Party and our country, it was the contribution of the Minister in Dáil Éireann on the Civil Partnership Bill that helped to shape minds in my party, for which I want to thank him. Some of us get some of the credit but it was that singular speech which brought many people on the journey, which I am very proud to see today. We will have an apology next week, for which I want to thank the Minister.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I acknowledge the very generous comments of my friend, Senator Buttimer, and look forward to what will be a very important event in the Seanad next week. As I outlined, the 1998 Offences against the State (Amendment) Act remains an essential tool in tackling the activities of terrorist groups across the island. Offences against the State Acts form the main body of the State's laws to counter activity of a subversive nature and terrorism. They are complementary to the general criminal law. While they are out of the ordinary course of criminal law, they are not emergency laws as some may have presented them. Over the course of the State's history, especially during the Troubles on the island, these laws have served to protect and safeguard the State from determined efforts to undermine it and its democratic institutions. It is surely beyond reasonable argument that a democratic State is entitled to and must take the measures it considers appropriate and necessary to protect itself and fundamental rights and freedoms and, as a consequence, to allow civil society to flourish.

  I make no apology, therefore, for defending our laws and the measures we have in place to combat serious crime and terrorism. The people require us to do what we reasonably can in order to protect them. Many here will know from their own experiences as public representatives of the devastation that the activities of organised crime, in particular the drug trade, can wreak on individual lives and across communities. While we have a comprehensive criminal law regime to tackle serious crime, we must constantly see where, in light of experience and changes in crime trends, this might be improved. Our laws in this regard remain under constant review to ensure that they are effective and proportionate.

  Organised crime is, of course, an international phenomenon and has respect for no borders. Significant strides have been made at EU level to reinforce the response to organised crime through continuous updating of European laws and the establishment of mechanisms to facilitate co-operation between law enforcement authorities, including, for example, through Europol and Eurojust. The renewal of this provision in the 2009 Act is a contribution to the overall framework of measures in seeking to tackle organised crime. It cannot in itself address this scourge in society, but it can be a support to the overall work which is ongoing.

  I want to refer very briefly to the Special Criminal Court as it touches on both motions. There are those who have argued that the Special Criminal Court is no longer needed and that its use is unjustified or even that it has been partisan or biased. In response to that I have to say that I firmly disagree. The Special Criminal Court continues to be a necessary response to the threats faced by the State. Putting a second Special Criminal Court into operation was a response by the Government to the need to deal with the volume of cases waiting to be tried. Are we seriously to accept that the threat from republican paramilitary groups and the brutality of ruthless crime gangs does not need a particular response from the criminal justice system? Are we simply to ignore these realities and not retain at our disposal the best means to support An Garda Síochána and the justice system in tackling these ongoing terror threats? I cannot and will not do that.

  I want to conclude by acknowledging what Senators said about Garda resources, in particular Senator Conway. He is correct. With regard to Garda numbers, the Government has put in place a plan for an overall workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, comprising 15,000 sworn Garda members, 2,000 reservists and 4,000 civilians who will ensure a greater level of availability and visibility of front-line gardaí, many of whom will be moved from desktops to the jobs they were best trained for, that is, working on the streets and in the communities of our country. We are making tangible progress on achieving that goal.

  I want to acknowledge the contribution of Senators.  I seek the support of this House, in accordance with the legislation, to facilitate the passing of both motions this afternoon.

  Question put and declared carried.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That Seanad Éireann resolves that sections 2 to 4, 6 to 12, 14 and 17 of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 (No. 39 of 1998) shall continue in operation for the period beginning on 30 June 2018 and ending on 29 June 2019.

  Question put and declared carried.

Commission of Investigation: Motion

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Before proceeding, I ask Members to refrain from comment in the debate today that would adversely affect the ongoing criminal proceedings or any further criminal investigations or prosecutions in this matter. Members are free to comment on the terms of reference.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Order in draft:
Commission of Investigation (Response to complaints or allegations of child sexual abuse made against Bill Kenneally and related matters) Order 2018,
copies of which have been laid in draft form before Seanad Éireann on 6th June, 2018.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am pleased to be here to discuss this important matter. I thank members of the Business Committee for agreeing to give time to this issue in the House today, namely, the order for the establishment of a commission of investigation into the response to allegations or complaints of child sexual abuse by Bill Kenneally and related matters. As Members will be aware, I have written to the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad to respectfully ask that all Members exercise a particular level of restraint in the debate this afternoon. It is important to remember that there are criminal proceedings currently in train in respect of issues which are potentially related to an element of the commission's work. Nothing should be said here today that might, in any way, jeopardise the rights of those who have come forward and made complaints more recently to have their cases fully investigated and prosecuted. Similarly, nothing should be said here today that would jeopardise the right of anybody to a fair trial. It is imperative that we protect and respect these fundamental constitutional rights. I acknowledge the presence in the Public Gallery of some complainants. I thank them for their engagement in the setting up of the commission.

  Before Members today is the order to establish the commission, with the terms of reference scheduled. Members will also have seen the statement of reasons for the establishment of the commission. It is important before going into any depth on the order and the terms of reference, that I give a brief outline of how we have reached this important point. In November 2016, the then Tánaiste, Deputy Fitzgerald, met with the survivors of sexual abuse committed by Bill Kenneally. These men, fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, had courageously come forward with their evidence of the horrific abuse inflicted on them during their childhood. Their evidence led to a conviction against Bill Kenneally and a sentence of 14 years' imprisonment. Following the meeting, the then Tánaiste commenced discussions with officials and sought the advice of the Attorney General. The Attorney General advised that, while it would be difficult to establish a commission of investigation, given a number of legal and procedural difficulties, it would not be impossible. However, extreme care would have to be taken in order that its work would not impact in any way on subsequent criminal proceedings.

  In May 2017, the Government committed to setting up a commission of investigation into the response to allegations of abuse committed by Bill Kenneally. Since I became Minister for Justice and Equality later that year, I, along with my officials, have worked with the Office of the Attorney General to draft an appropriate set of terms of reference that, as far as possible, would not adversely affect any pending or ongoing criminal proceedings or further investigations. It should be noted that, relatively recently, a further 99 criminal charges have been brought against Bill Kenneally in respect of other complainants. An Garda Síochána is also investigating further allegations by new complainants. The terms of reference which are scheduled to the order are drafted primarily from information provided to the then Tánaiste by survivors of abuse committed by Bill Kenneally. A particular mention should go to Mr. Jason Clancy, who provided very detailed information about the response by the State to the allegations in the 1980s against Mr. Bill Kenneally, which forms the basis for the commission of investigation.

  In April of this year, once the draft terms of reference had been prepared in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, I met the complainants, the survivors, and their legal representatives and offered them an opportunity to comment on the draft terms of reference. They made a number of important suggestions which I considered, along with my officials, and a version encompassing a number of the proposed changes was then sent to the Attorney General for further advices. Once approved by the Attorney General, the final version of the terms of reference was sent to the survivors via their solicitor who informed my Department that they approved of the terms of reference as now drafted. I acknowledge the importance of this engagement and thank all who were party to it.

  Turning to the substance of the terms of reference, the sole member will first be asked to investigate the extent of the knowledge within An Garda Síochána during a particular time period, 1985 to 1992, of the allegations against Mr. Kenneally. If information emerges indicating that the Garda was informed of the allegations against Mr. Kenneally, either before or after those particular years, then the commission is empowered to investigate that information further. Members will note that the terms contain references to An Garda Síochána, the South Eastern Health Board, Basketball Ireland, the Waterford Catholic diocese and unnamed political figures. While the allegations made by Mr. Clancy and others are primarily against An Garda Síochána, it may be necessary for the commission to investigate the acts or omissions of those other organisations, if it can be shown that An Garda Síochána passed information to them about any offences allegedly being committed by Mr. Bill Kenneally. I want to inform Members that, once the documents were laid before both Houses, my Department made contact with the named organisations, providing them with copies of the terms of reference and informing them that the commission would be in contact with them in due course.

  I am happy to appoint retired Circuit Court Judge Mr. Barry Hickson as the sole member of the commission of investigation. A well-respected and experienced jurist, I am sure that Judge Hickson will carry out the work of the commission in a professional, expedient manner. I wish to inform the House that both the Attorney General and Judge Hickson have estimated that it will take the commission up to a year to report, given the potential number of witnesses to be called and the various allegations that have been made. Colleagues should also note that the commission may be required to pause its work, if requested by the Director of Public Prosecutions, where a concern exists that the matter being discussed at the commission might in any way interfere with any aspect of an ongoing criminal prosecution against Mr. Kenneally. The Director of Public Prosecutions will be monitoring proceedings and has agreed to contact my Department should any difficulties arise. I appreciate that we are somewhat tight for time so I would like to pause my comments here and will offer further information to the House regarding detailed arrangements for the commission, following statements from Members of the House this afternoon.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I will start by welcoming the victims of Bill Kenneally to the Public Gallery, Jason Clancy and Colin Power. These men have shown nothing but bravery, determination and endurance in what has been an uphill battle for justice. This has been a harrowing journey for these men and it is absolutely not over yet but I hope this commission brings them some solace. I know it can never give them back what was taken from them. I acknowledge that the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, has been committed to establishing a commission of investigation and that this has always been the case. In November 2016, my party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, and our justice spokesperson, Deputy O'Callaghan, met victims and heard at first hand the serious concerns they had regarding the handling of their complaints over many years. Following this meeting, Fianna Fáil wrote to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, to advocate for a full commission of inquiry to be undertaken to examine the background to this awful situation and determine the facts in full. We also called for such an inquiry to be undertaken without delay.  While I understand the inquiry could only commence on the completion of outstanding investigations and prosecutions, it was disappointing for the victims that the inquiry was announced way before it was possible to commence it, and the delays genuinely caused huge stresses for the victims.

  The depravity of Mr. Kenneally’s actions moved Mr. Justice George Birmingham, a judge for more than ten years, to comment that, in his experience, he was not aware of a case involving the number of victims where the abuse was so severe as it was here, coupled with the breach of trust, the use of alcohol, the payment of money and the use of photos as a form of coercion. The fact that Kenneally was allowed to abuse children for such a protracted period of time is an indictment on the State and answers are needed as to how this was allowed to happen.

  Having looked at the terms of reference of the commission, which I believe to be substantial, I hope that, finally, the victims of Bill Kenneally may get some answers to the questions they have been asking for so long.

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan I welcome the Minister. I thank him and his departmental staff for their work on this issue over the past few years. I would also like to extend a welcome to some of the representatives of the victims of Bill Kenneally who are in the Visitors Gallery today, Mr. Jason Clancy and Mr. Colin Power. Both have worked tirelessly over many years to see justice delivered in this case. Their tireless and brave work is a testament to their strength in the face of horrible crimes. I hope we can today show them the respect due and a similar commitment to achieving justice for the people affected by these crimes.

  In my meetings with Mr. Clancy and Mr. Power, I have heard of the work the Minister has done to deliver the terms of reference for this commission of investigation and the good faith with which he has engaged with victims representative groups, which has to be acknowledged. I would also like to endorse the general thrust of the terms of reference of the commission itself. They are broad enough to ensure that the proper areas are being investigated but not so broad that concrete findings will not be made. Any person from Waterford knows there are questions to be answered, questions about how the State and other institutions reacted to and investigated, or failed to investigate, the allegations made against Bill Kenneally. The almost traditional cult of silence and shame seemed once again to add insult to the injury of those hurt by these crimes and that the State is now making the moves to correct those injustices is something we all welcome.

  I want to emphasise that transparency must be at the heart of the investigation that is to take place. For decades, silence and cover-ups defined this case, and we must ensure it is uncovered and that the process remains victim-focused throughout. All steps should be taken by the incoming inquiry chairperson to ensure that victims are kept informed and involved in every step of the process. The people hurt in this case are organised, engaged and well informed, so there can be no excuse to sideline them from the process. Sessions must be in public where possible.

  As important as transparency is expediency. The Kenneally cases date back to the 1980s, in fact, possibly earlier. Justice delayed is justice denied, and this justice has been very long in coming. We know that the total list of victims will almost certainly never be known. Mr. Power and Mr. Clancy have shown incredible strength in their activism on this issue, but during that work they have talked to dozens of other victims who have not been able, or willing, to do what they have done. These people are legion and now is the time for their justice to be delivered. The commission should work hard and finish fast. It should aim to complete its work in the shortest possible timeframe that would not compromise the effectiveness of its work.

  I would like to wrap up with my impressions of the impact of this case on the people of Waterford. We are a big county in a way but a very small county in another way. A case such as this one, with such evil actions causing such deep hurt to so many, has had ramifications throughout the whole county. It has affected many people and it has really hurt. The victims of Bill Kenneally were hurt, were abused and were damaged, but they have demonstrated strength and fortitude in the face of uninterested or complicit institutions that failed them so badly. Today is the first step in making amends.

Senator Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey I welcome the Minister to the House. This is a very sad debate. It is another very dark and sad legacy from our past that has been brought out into the open and into the light through the bravery and courage of those who have suffered. I, too, want to welcome Jason and Colin to the Visitors Gallery. Without their perseverance, strength and courage, this sad legacy of Irish society, which happened in Waterford, would not have been brought into the light. I want them and their fellow victims to know we stand with them in solidarity to find the justice and truth they so rightly deserve.

  They have been victims of Kenneally, who is now a convicted sexual abuser. He perpetrated lifelong damage on so many children, whose childhoods were stolen by his evil actions. Today, we start the process of discovering who knew what at that time. This order to establish a commission of investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Bill Kenneally and related matters is not before time and it is important we bring it forward as quickly as possible. It is a very significant day for the victims and survivors of Kenneally's abuse and their fight for transparency and justice. As I said, I want to acknowledge the bravery of the victims in taking such a public stance to achieve justice. As a result, Kenneally has been brought before the courts, convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

  The problem, sadly, is that it does not stop there. This issue runs far deeper and there is State involvement that we need to get to the bottom of. The reason this commission of investigation is required is that it is alleged that An Garda Síochána was made aware of the abuses perpetrated by Kenneally at the time. The victims and the public need to know what gardaí knew about the abuse, what actions they took, who they told at the time, and, most significantly, what actions they did not take to protect those being abused. It is alleged that gardaí were given comprehensive information but no actions were taken, with the result that the abuse continued. That is the real horror story here and we need to get to the bottom of it.

  I mentioned State institutions. It is no secret that Kenneally was a political activist for Fianna Fáil at the time and was closely related to a former Deputy who was influential in Waterford at the time of the abuse. Therefore, we also need to know what that party knew at the time and what it did to protect those being abused. We need to know what State institutions, such as An Garda Síochána and the South Eastern Health Board, and senior clergy in the Catholic diocese of Waterford, knew at that time and why they did not act. On the public record of Seanad Éireann, I call for full co-operation with this investigation by all parties who were informed, who knew a little or who knew a lot of the abuse that occurred at that time, and that includes gardaí, health board officials, clergy and political figures. We need full co-operation with this investigation if we are to get to the truth.

  I want to commend the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, for listening to the victims and for supporting them through the establishment of this commission of investigation. I, too, want to acknowledge the role of the former Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, in assisting the survivors. I want to acknowledge the role of the Attorney General, Mr. Séamus Woulfe, in what has been a difficult commission to frame, given the 99 criminal charges that are at present being brought against Kenneally.  The Minister found a way forward and engaged with the victims. That is what politics and being a responsible Minister and politician is about. I commend the Minister on that.

  I also acknowledge the public support given to the victims. When they were finding the going difficult and probably almost giving up, the public rowed in behind them because they knew they were on the side of what was right. It will be vital that the investigation is transparent and that the commission engages in a real and comprehensive way with the victims of abuse. Their testimonies must be heard and taken into account.

  I wish Judge Barry Hickson well in his endeavours to find the truth. He has been given a very responsible role to get to the bottom of what went on. I am confident he will do his work in a diligent and professional manner. I look forward to the day very soon when these brave survivors finally get to the truth of what happened and have justice and we know exactly what went on and who covered up at the time. There is no more room for cover-ups in our society. It is time for truth and justice for the Kenneally victims.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire. Tréaslaím leis an méid atá ráite ag an Seanadóir Coffey. Is léir go bhfuil sé ag labhairt le a lán paisin faoin ábhar seo agus aontaím leis an méid a dúirt sé ó thaobh an fhírinne a bhaint amach ar son na n-íobartach.

  I welcome the move today in respect of the order to establish this commission of investigation. The strength, courage and dignity of the victims in this case speak more than we ever could. I commend the action taken by the Minister in regard to this commission and the support not only for the victims but for obtaining the truth and putting that before the world.

  I welcome the motion being taken in the House. I also welcome our visitors in the Public Gallery. I thank the Minister and I am certain that, under his stewardship and leadership, the commission will have a positive outcome for all the victims involved in this case.

  I understand colleagues from across the House and many other individuals, not least the victims, have met the Minister and have been of some assistance. The victory, if there is to be one, will lie with the Minister and the action he has initiated in both Houses to support the victims of Bill Kenneally. I have not been a Member of this House for very long but I have been here long enough to know these processes generally take longer than predicted. Despite the commitments, this process could continue for longer than a year although I am confident the Minister will do everything he can to ensure that will not be the case.

  The Government is of the view, and it is a view I share, that the actions or omissions of An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive, Basketball Ireland and a litany of other agencies, which were listed by Senator Coffey, in dealing with this case are open to question and scrutiny and these matters should all considered as we move forward. I do not want to delve into any of the details of the case and I am mindful of the counsel given to us by the Leas-Chathaoirleach at the start of the debate. However, it is appropriate on the day that is in it to reiterate my congratulations and solidarity with those who have fought tooth and nail to have this commission of investigation established. Our words in this Chamber cannot do justice to their bravery and the stand they have taken to ensure we have reached this point. I can only hope as we move forward that we can bring some light, truth and research to this issue and speak the truth about what was a very negative, horrible dark power and influence in this State in days gone by.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan As there are no more Senators indicating, I call the Minister to conclude the debate.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I acknowledge the contributions of Senators Wilson, Grace O'Sullivan, Coffey and Ó Donnghaile. This is an important issue and, as Senator O'Sullivan said, it is an emotive one. I very much agree with Senator Coffey that it is unfortunate, to say the least, that we are in this House again debating another element of this country's dark history of failing to properly respond to child sexual abuse. Down through the decades, child sexual abuse has been prevalent throughout society. It was kept secret and hidden through fear, inaction and, in many respects, abuse of power.

  As I said earlier, the commission is being established to investigate the way complaints or allegations made to the Garda about Bill Kenneally were handled. It will look at what gardaí knew, when they knew it, what they did and whom they told. If necessary, the commission will also investigate the responses or actions of a number of identified bodies or persons - the former South Eastern Health Board, those in Basketball Ireland, the monsignor of the Waterford diocese, and any political figures who may have been told either formally or informally of the activities of Bill Kenneally.

  The Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 sets out a number of procedural steps for the setting up of a commission. Section 3(1) of that Act provides that following a proposal made by a Minister and with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, "the Government may, by order, establish a commission to ... investigate any matter considered by the Government to be of significant public concern ...".

  The Government is of the view, and I believe the vast majority of Members of this House will agree, that it is necessary to set up a commission to investigate and report on the matters of public concern, as set out in the statement of reasons. The commission will be located in accommodation sourced by the Office of Public Works at Tom Johnston House in Beggar's Bush, Dublin 4. This is where persons will be invited to appear before the commission and give evidence before the sole member.

  There is a process under way to identify suitable senior counsel, junior counsel and a solicitor to assist the work of the sole member and the administration of the commission. Other administrative provisions have been put in place to allow the commission to begin its work as expeditiously as possible once the order to establish the commission is approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas and the terms of reference are formally set by Government.

  While there is a methodology in place to set fees for senior counsel, junior counsel, solicitors and the sole member, it is difficult to estimate with any real accuracy the amount of third party costs that may be incurred, including legal representation for witnesses before the commission. Based on experience gained from previous commissions of investigation, the cost of this commission is estimated to be approximately €1.3 million. This figure is sanctioned by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and I know that Judge Hickson, those appointed to the commission and my own officials will monitor this budget very closely to ensure that any costs incurred are reasonable and appropriate in each and every circumstance.

  I pay tribute to the brave men who, in late 2016, came to the then Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality with their harrowing stories. These men have suffered for almost 30 years but bravely chose to break their silence. Now they want the truth, but there is the matter of whether action could or should have been taken earlier. I welcome Mr. Clancy and Mr. Power to the Gallery. It is my sincere hope this commission will get to the truth of all of the issues raised by them and their colleagues and reflected in the terms of reference.

  It would not be right or fair to the organisations or persons who would be subject of the commission's inquiries to prejudge any matter that might come before the sole member. However, it is fundamentally important that these allegations of inaction, secrecy and collusion are properly investigated and, if found to be true, that they be fully exposed. In modern Ireland there can be no more hiding of such insidious crimes.

  I hope the work of this commission and the improvements I am committed to implementing in respect of the rights of victims in sexual abuse cases can act as a beacon to those living in fear and those who remain afraid to speak out against their abuser, be that a family member, family friend or complete stranger. I say to all those persons that we are here to listen, we are here to help and we are here to act accordingly.

  The Cabinet has approved and noted the documents which have been laid before the House today. I ask that Members respect the opinions of survivors of abuse committed by Mr. Kenneally. They have approved the terms of reference as the most expedient, transparent way to get to the truth of what was known and by whom about Mr. Kenneally's offending behaviour in the mid to late 1980s.

  I thank the officials seated behind me for their work and diligence in prioritising this issue which has been complex and difficult.  I acknowledge what Senators have said in that regard. I ask the House to approve the order to establish the commission of investigation into these issues.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sitting suspended at 1.50 p.m. and resumed at 1.55 p.m.

Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission: Motion

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I move:

That Seanad Éireann, noting that the Government on 8 May, 2018 nominated Mr. Patrick Sullivan for appointment by the President, as a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, recommends, pursuant to section 65(1)(b) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, that Mr. Patrick Sullivan be appointed by the President to be a member of the Commission."

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank the House for facilitating me between items Nos. 3 and 4 on the Order of Business. The appointment of members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, is governed by the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which require the Government to satisfy itself that a person to be nominated for appointment has the appropriate experience, qualifications, training or expertise for appointment. The Act also provides that a member of GSOC is appointed by the President following the nomination by the Government and the passage of resolutions by both Houses of the Oireachtas recommending the appointment.

  In this regard, the Government nominated Mr. Patrick Sullivan at its meeting on 8 May and I am pleased to recommend formally to the House that Members approve him for appointment by the President as a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Mr. Sullivan was recommended by the Public Appointments Service as the best qualified candidate for the position. This followed an independent, international competition organised by the Public Appointments Service.

    The background to Mr. Sullivan's nomination as a member of GSOC arises from the resignation of Mr. Mark Toland last October to take up the position of chief inspector with the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Mr. Toland's term of office with GSOC was due to last until 11 December 2020. Under the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, a person appointed to replace a member of the commission holds office for the remainder of the term of the person being replaced. As such, Mr. Sullivan's term of office will expire in December 2020. I acknowledge the contribution that Mr. Toland made to GSOC as commissioner, a role to which he brought more than 30 years' experience gained with the UK Metropolitan Police Service. His extensive knowledge of policing served him well while sitting on GSOC and his policing expertise and GSOC experience can only serve to benefit the Garda Síochána Inspectorate in future.

  Mr. Sullivan brings with him a wealth of experience from his work with various federal agencies across the United States of America. The expertise he has gained in a career which spans over 40 years in federal law enforcement will bring a different perspective to the excellent work of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The House will agree that it is vital that the public has strong confidence in the Garda Síochána and its system of oversight. As such, Mr. Sullivan's vast experience in oversight within federal agencies in the USA will enhance existing confidence in GSOC's role of investigating complaints against members of our police service. His most recent position as assistant inspector general for investigations in the office of inspector general at the Environmental Protection Agency, which required the supervision of both criminal and administrative investigative cases, equips him very well for the position.  I will give the House a flavour of the qualifications Mr. Sullivan brings to the job. He was a member of the FBI from 1972 to 1976 where he worked in counter intelligence. Between 1976 and 1999, he was a member of the US Secret Service. During his time there, he was in charge of the counterfeit division. He was subsequently in charge of the presidential candidate protection division during the 1996 US presidential campaign managing a budget of $40 million. He also worked in the presidential protection division. From 1999 to 2011, he worked in the US Federal air marshal service and in the Government Accountability Office of the US Congress. This latter body investigates federal spending. His current role is assistant inspector general for investigations at the US Environmental Protection Agency. His responsibilities here include the supervision of investigations of wrongdoing alleged against members of the Environmental Protection Agency and reports of theft or fraud against the EPA budget. He controls a budget of $10 million. His responsibilities also required his appearance before both Congressional and Senate committees to provide testimony into the actions taken by Environmental Protection Agency staff. I am sure the House will agree that these are indeed impressive credentials and I have every confidence that the work of GSOC will be strengthened by his presence there.

  I appreciate this is only a snapshot of Mr. Sullivan's qualifications and experience and that Senators have not had the opportunity to hear directly from him. When the resolution for his nomination was debated in the other House last evening, there were calls for the procedures for nomination of persons to be members of GSOC to be altered so that more information about nominees would be made available before the resolutions are taken on the Houses. I think that would be a good thing. I will examine how this might be achieved. It may be that a briefing document could be provided to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality giving background information about the nominee. It is certainly something that I intend and am happy to explore further. I know that the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality hoped to have the opportunity to hear from Mr. Sullivan prior to his appointment. However, I understand that he was unavailable due to commitments to his current employers in the US. Nevertheless, I hope that the committee will have an opportunity to hear from Mr. Sullivan in due course.

  The Government nominated Mr. Sullivan at its meeting on 8 May. As I said, this appointment arises from the resignation last October of Mr. Mark Toland. Following this, I informed the Government on 5 December of my decision to fill the vacancy by way of an open competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service. This preference was taken with a view to ensuring that the very best candidate would be identified from an international field of suitably qualified candidates. It is important that we recognise the contribution that GSOC makes to policing in the State. GSOC has been operating now for over ten years and has grown in stature during that time. With that, its reputation for independence and fairness has grown. This is in no small part due to the dedication and drive of the current commission under its chairperson, Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, and Commissioner Kieran FitzGerald. Their vision for GSOC's policing oversight reaches into the future seeking to extend its remit and, accordingly, its size. The dedication and commitment of its staff are unquestionable. GSOC has seen its role expanded somewhat. For example, bringing complaints against the Garda Commissioner has been brought within its remit. In addition, GSOC is now a designated body to which members of the police service can make protected disclosures.

  At the same time, significant changes have also been made to legislation governing An Garda Síochána. In particular, the establishment of the Policing Authority has created a public forum where the Garda Commissioner can be asked about matters related to policing services. These are welcome developments. There is no one who would suggest that a service such as the Garda Síochána, which can invoke quite extensive powers, should not be fully and openly accountable for how it uses these powers. The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland is another example of the commitment this Government has undertaken to review the functioning of An Garda Síochána. In terms of its remit and purpose, the commission has been tasked with reshaping the legislative landscape in which An Garda Síochána operates. The commission members bring a wealth of experience and dedication to their task and they are undertaking an ambitious work programme with alacrity. Their report, which will be of huge significance, is due in September. This major publication should provide a framework for a modern, professional policing service which will protect and defend the community and be subject to appropriate and robust accountability.

  The House will be aware that GSOC has recently made proposals to me for legislative changes to enable it to function more effectively and efficiently. These are being considered at present by my officials. However, I am conscious that any changes to GSOC should align with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing. GSOC has been engaging with the commission and I will be taking care to ensure that there is appropriate alignment. GSOC has also sought additional staffing resources and has submitted a business proposal to my Department. My officials are liaising with GSOC to ensure that a clear business case can be put to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The GSOC proposal contains a focus on medium and long-term planning and demonstrates the commitment of the current Commission to ensuring GSOC is properly equipped now and into the future. I can assure the House that I am supportive of the broad thrust of GSOC's business case and supportive of the valuable work undertaken by the commission. I should also say that this Government and I have given a commitment to provide GSOC with the resources it needs to maintain the very highest standards of policing oversight. I would like to take this opportunity to restate that commitment. GSOC will be fully supported in its role and will be given all the tools needed to continue to perform at the high levels that GSOC continually strives to maintain.

  GSOC has a critical role to play in the architecture of policing in the State. Its independence is the guarantee to the public that complaints against members of An Garda Síochána will be investigated as the old phrase puts it "without fear or favour". Indeed, my predecessors and I have made the point many times in this House that there will be no interference with GSOC investigations despite occasional calls for some form of ministerial or governmental intervention. I believe public confidence in GSOC will be bolstered further with the appointment of Mr. Patrick Sullivan. Oversight in public administration is nothing new to him and the administration of law enforcement is also not unfamiliar territory to him. That is what marked Mr. Sullivan out as the preferred choice to be a member of GSOC. The international nature of his knowledge and experience can only serve to benefit GSOC in policing oversight matters. It is my hope that the House will join me in welcoming Mr. Sullivan and wishing him success in his new role as commissioner in GSOC.

Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile: Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile I begin by doing precisely what the Minister asked us to do, which is to welcome the appointment of Patrick Sullivan to GSOC. I wish Mr. Sullivan well in his new and very critical and important role for all of the reasons outlined by the Minister. The role carries much responsibility and is an important public service. As noted by the Minister, Mr. Sullivan brings a wealth of talent and expertise to the new post. I hope his experience and expertise will assist GSOC in carrying out its work. Mr. Sullivan's CV details a long history of investigative roles within various federal agencies in the US. The list is certainly comprehensive. Given the importance of Mr. Sullivan's post within GSOC, it is important that he settles into a full-time role as quickly as possible.

  In respect of some broader points of concern regarding GSOC and its functions, the powers of GSOC must be further enhanced to ensure that the Garda Commissioner comes within the remit of GSOC for investigation purposes and that GSOC has the power to secure co-operation from gardaí because in the past, there have been serious blockages in GSOC investigations, of which the Minister is aware. GSOC needs to be fully empowered and independent in order to fulfill its oversight obligations. Serving officers in An Garda Síochána should not be seconded to GSOC. GSOC needs to be independent and to be seen to be independent in order for it to do its job and to dispel any concerns that may exist about bias or prejudice. It would help immensely if a duty of impartiality and independence was included in GSOC's objectives. This would include a statutory obligation to report at regular intervals to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and to answer questions from its members. Investigations in respect of the work of the Garda Commissioner as and when required should also be within the gift and remit of GSOC. There should be no requirement for ministerial approval for such an investigation. It should be in a position to use its own initiative where and when required. For example, in a case where a Garda retires or resigns, any complaint against the departing officer should still be investigated if GSOC believes it would be in the public interest to do so. The time limit for making complaints to GSOC should be extended from six months to at least one year and perhaps longer with the time period running from the date of knowledge of the supposed wrongdoing. The Minister for Justice and Equality should not have the power to withhold material from GSOC on security grounds. The Garda Commissioner should be under a duty to provide GSOC with the material it requests and the conscious withholding of information should be seen as an offence.  GSOC must be given the right to make unannounced visits and inspections of Garda stations. GSOC's access to the PULSE system must be placed on a statutory footing, granting it access to all of the material that it requires, by its own definition, for an investigative case. The Ombudsman's remit should cover civilian staff of the Garda, although the staff should be accountable to Garda oversight in the normal day-to-day running of the service. GSOC should also be offered the right to compel witnesses, including Garda officers and former officers, and they must provide any relevant documentation in their possession.

  Recently there has been discussion in the media about GSOC seeking 12 additional staff. Unfortunately, GSOC has only been offered five people with one being a clerical officer and no principal officer post has been included. The protected disclosures unit has three staff and only operates on a part-time basis with all staff having additional responsibilities. The shortage of staff puts additional pressures on GSOC, particularly in this period of intense pressure. The sum of €900,000 is very little and modest given the potential calls for commissions of inquiry or, indeed, tribunals. If we are serious about having a functioning oversight body then it must be given the resources that it requires to do its job.

  GSOC was very explicit in its recent memo that it released to RTÉ. GSOC said that if the Government failed to provide the necessary resources then it would fail to achieve two of its central objectives. They are as follows - to ensure investigations happen efficiently and effectively; and to promote public confidence in the process. If GSOC is to carry out its functions and properly investigate protected disclosures that may involve serious wrongdoing or malpractice then it needs enough resources to investigate. Also, GSOC cannot do such work on a part-time basis.

  The Ombudsman must have the power to recommend the suspension of a Garda. We should allow the Ombudsman the power to direct disciplinary proceedings. Complaints of a less serious nature could be considered a service level issue. An Garda Síochána should be able to deal with internal Garda complaints of a less serious nature. Those making external complaints of a less serious nature against a Garda officer must always have an option to approach GSOC but informal resolution may be possible with the consent of the complainant.

  Sinn Féin believes that a statutory framework should be created for GSOC to provide An Garda Síochána with observations on systematic issues arising from complaints, and that these complaints should be addressed and remedied in an agreed and relatively short timeframe depending on the nature of the issue. We have had many examples of where these failings exist. As recently as yesterday a report stated that as many as half of the people involved in road traffic accidents were not tested afterwards due to systematic failures. That is simply unacceptable.

  Sinn Féin supports the view expressed by GSOC that it should have the scope and ability to engage in joint investigations with other relevant State organisations, where required, that have appropriate expertise, particularly where procuring specialist skills via the private market would be expensive. I have detailed much of this and more measures, which I feel may be of help in pursuit of a more efficient running of GSOC, in our proposal to the Commission on the Future of Policing.

  Later today, we will have a debate and hear remarks on the establishment of a public inquiry into the case of Shane O'Farrell and the role of GSOC. That highlights the importance of why we need to empower, embolden, enfranchise and enable GSOC to carry out its roles, not just in holding the Garda Síochána to account at whatever level. We must also build in the necessary confidence and build the public's trust because they need to know that the oversight bodies, and the organisationss that they oversee, are fully compliant and fall within the remit of being investigated appropriately.

  To conclude, I wish Mr. Sullivan all the best in his new role. I hope that he will be a great addition to a body that is in serious need of reform.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I thank the Senator. The next speaker is Senator Martin Conway and he has eight minutes.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I wish to advise the Acting Chairman that I will not avail of the full eight minutes. I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House. I acknowledge the Government's success in persuading somebody of the calibre of Patrick Sullivan to take up this very important role. His curriculum vitae and experience is extremely impressive. His appointment can only enhance the reputation and important work done by GSOC.

 The Minister has told us about the business plan for GSOC and An Garda Síochána; there is a lot of positive change happening. Mr. Sullivan's curriculum vitae speaks for itself and I wish him well in his appointment.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I thank the Senator. That concludes the list of Senators who wished to speak and I call on the Minister to conclude the debate.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank the Senators for their contributions to this debate this afternoon. I hope that it is clear to the House that the skills and experience that Mr. Sullivan has gained in both investigative and oversight roles demonstrates why he is the most suitable candidate for appointment to this important position. I reiterate that he was selected following an international competition organised by the Public Appointments Service. Some of the personal qualities that were sought from candidates were as follows - a proven record in oversight and management; an international background in policing; a team player with interpersonal skills appropriate to the demands of the role; and excellent communication skills, including the capacity to represent the organisation at public forums. I believe that the summary of Mr. Sullivan's career in the United States that I outlined shows he amply meets those qualities.

  It cannot be overstated that the work the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission does, on a daily basis, benefits the society in which we live by instilling a public belief that accountability extends to all public services, and to the police service of the State in particular. All too often words such as accountability are used without any due regard for the organisation's charter ensuring that accountability. Organisations, such as GSOC, are called upon when situations demand a strong, robust and unquestionable response. When the organisation in question is An Garda Síochána, I believe that we have to be particularly strong in our response. GSOC fulfils that role well.

  The public demands a police service that is independent in the exercise of its obligations and functions yet is accountable for those actions. Those bodies charged with oversight of our national police service must also be independent. It is incumbent upon all of us to support those bodies and respect the outcomes reached by them. As the House is aware, the Garda Síochána Act stipulates that GSOC is independent in the exercise of its functions. I, as Minister, have no role in the processing of individual complaints referred for investigation nor, indeed, do I have any legal authority to intervene or interfere in any investigations undertaken. Indeed, this guarantee of independence is the hallmark of effective oversight.

  Mr. Patrick Sullivan is joining GSOC at a time of great transition within the field of policing. It is timely that we should welcome him as the newest member of GSOC and wish him every success during this time of transition.

  Question put and agreed to.

Death of Shane O'Farrell: Statements

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan The next item is statements on matters related to a fatal road traffic collision causing the death of Mr. Shane O’Farrell in 2011. I call on the Minister for Justice and Equality to make his opening contribution.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I want to begin by again offering my condolences and profound sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. O’Farrell and Shane's sisters and extended family and friends. I cannot imagine the scale of their grief and I know that no words of mine will bring Shane O'Farrell back to his family. Shane O'Farrell's death was a tragedy. I know, as many of us do, that his loss has had a catastrophic impact on his family. I welcome Mrs. O'Farrell to the Public Gallery.

  In 2011, Shane O'Farrell was just 23 years of age when he was killed when cycling in County Monaghan. He was taken from his family at a time when he held so much promise for the life he might have lived. In the course of the past seven years, I have met members of his family and I am familiar with their tireless quest to understand the circumstances which led to the death of Shane O'Farrell. Let me state categorically here in the Seanad that there are a number of matters surrounding the circumstances of the death of Shane O’Farrell, which are of concern. The fact is that the person who was responsible for the fatal accident had multiple previous convictions, including for theft, drugs and road traffic offences, for some of which he had received suspended prison sentences. It is also the case that, at the time of the accident, he was on bail related to a number of charges.

  Shane's mother, Lucia O'Farrell, has asked for a public inquiry. Over the years since the death of Shane O'Farrell, my predecessors have attempted to address the concerns of his family. They have availed themselves of the mechanisms at their disposal to determine what actions they might take.  In 2014, my predecessor, former Minister, Alan Shatter, referred the matter to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Members of the House will be aware that GSOC has a statutory responsibility to deal with complaints concerning the conduct of members of the Garda Síochána. At the time of the Minister’s referral, GSOC was already investigating the case on foot of a complaint by the O’Farrell family and it merged the two complaints into one. The following month in May 2014, the then Minister, Alan Shatter, referred the case to the independent review mechanism. The independent review mechanism was established to provide for independent reviews of certain allegations of Garda misconduct or inadequacies in the investigation of certain allegations with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner further action may be required in the case.

  For clarity, the independent review mechanism was not established to act as a commission of inquiry or investigation nor was it designed to make findings. Its purpose was to examine allegations to see whether further action was needed by the Minister and what that action might be. Under the IRM, the allegations made by the O’Farrell family concerning the circumstances of Shane O'Farrell’s death and subsequent events were examined. Having considered this case, the recommendation made by the IRM was that no further ministerial action should be taken in this case. Counsel for the IRM pointed out that the appropriate forum for raising matters related to alleged Garda failings was GSOC which was already investigating certain matters arising from the tragic death in this case.

  In December 2015, my immediate predecessor, former Tánaiste, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, issued a letter to Mrs. O’Farrell setting out the outcome of the recommendation from the IRM review and the reasons for these. Before leaving the IRM, it is important that I make one further point. The matter of bias or conflict of interest has been raised in this particular case. One of the senior counsel on the IRM panel had represented the driver of the car that caused the death of Shane O’Farrell at his trial. Repeated assurances have been given that such conflicts of interest were catered for and I am advised categorically that this senior counsel had no involvement in the review of Mrs. O’Farrell’s complaint. Let me be clear about one thing. The independent review mechanism examined the complaints referred to it, notwithstanding that GSOC had already begun an investigation. Having examined each complaint, the IRM determined that these same matters were being investigated by GSOC and as a result made its recommendation.

  As mentioned, a number of complaints were made to GSOC by the O’Farrell family and my predecessor, former Minister, Alan Shatter, also referred certain matters relating to the case to GSOC. GSOC's investigation involved consideration of 56 complaints made to it by the family and matters referred to GSOC by the then Minister, Alan Shatter. In April 2018 GSOC issued its first report on the case to me and provided a copy to the O’Farrell family. The report has been published on the GSOC website. For the sake of clarity, I want to say that the date, 29 March 2017, on the first report as sent to the O'Farrell family is an error. My officials have been informed by GSOC that it was a typographical mistake and the date should have been 2018. This has been corrected in the version published on the website.

  This first report considered this from a criminal perspective. Each allegation was examined to determine if any conduct by the gardaí could constitute an offence. The primary complaints considered by GSOC were alleged failures by the gardaí relating to the fact that the person who caused the accident had breached bail conditions in the months before the accident, alleged failure to check tax and other matters when the car that was involved in the collision with Shame O'Farrell’s bicycle was stopped shortly before the collision, alleged failure to bring charges against a person for withholding information about the accident and alleged failure to keep the O'Farrell family fully informed of certain matters.

  GSOC found there were no grounds for criminal proceedings against any garda. However, it identified conduct that may lead to disciplinary proceedings. It immediately began a report on the disciplinary issues that this case gives rise to under the Garda disciplinary code. The current GSOC investigation is examining an alleged failure to check tax and other matters related to the car and the owner of the car involved in the collision and an alleged failure to bring bail conditions to the attention of the court or to reactivate a suspended sentence when the person was charged with subsequent offences prior to the date of the collision. This work is ongoing and, given the lengthy and detailed investigation to date, I expect that report to be completed without delay. The findings of GSOC’s report on disciplinary matters may be quite serious. I urge colleagues in this House to be mindful of the importance of allowing GSOC to determine whether any gardaí may be guilty of a breach of discipline and to be careful not to interfere with that process.

  GSOC is conscious that all parties, including gardaí under investigation, have rights and is not jeopardising the ongoing disciplinary investigation by naming persons who have the right to be heard and offer an explanation for the conduct under investigation. When the investigation is completed, the report will be forwarded to the Garda Commissioner under section 97 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It will be open then for the Garda Commissioner to consider what action, if any, he thinks appropriate under the Garda disciplinary regulations. GSOC is the independent authority established by statute to investigate allegations of wrongdoing or failings by members of the Garda Síochána. GSOC's independence is its guarantee to members of the public and to members of the Garda who are the subject of a complaint, that any and all complaints will be investigated properly and thoroughly, with due regard to the rights of everybody involved.

  The House may find it useful to know that the GSOC report made a number of more general recommendations. It stated that attendance in court for victims, especially in cases involving fatalities and serious assaults, can be particularly traumatic. This can be exacerbated by the fact that there is no clear listing system available to the public, especially for the District Court. Furthermore, cases are often taken out of turn and new cases are added, which further extends the waiting time and uncertainty as to when exactly a case will be heard. GSOC also drew attention to the inability to hear clearly in the courtrooms of our District Courts, which can be frustrating. It also states that victims should be provided with appropriate information about a case and given it in a timely fashion. Finally, it states that better communications between the courts, Garda and the prison service might prevent significant issues being overlooked or missed such as bail conditions that may have been breached in any particular case.

  I thank GSOC for these findings which I have asked my officials to examine to determine what action I, as Minister, may take to address these issues without delay. I know it is a source of deep frustration and upset for the O’Farrell family but it remains the case that the GSOC disciplinary investigation must be completed before any decision on what future action can be taken. I strongly reiterate the commitment previously given to the O’Farrell family that once the GSOC investigation is completed, the question as to whether there remain issues that require further investigation will be fully and transparently considered.

  It is clear there are a number of troubling matters surrounding the circumstances leading up to the road traffic incident in which Shane O’Farrell’s life was cut tragically short. The GSOC report clearly identifies those matters. They were, in fact, failures. In the debate in the other House last Tuesday, I was emphatic that I accepted that they were failures. A man, who had numerous previous convictions, including for theft, drugs and road traffic offences, and who was on bail at the time of the incident, had also been arrested for other offences while on bail. We all know there are laws related to the obligations on those who obtain release on bail and there are sanctions if those bail conditions are breached. Unfortunately in this particular case those sanctions were not implemented and there was a failing.

  Leaving that to one side, I will say that the failings identified by GSOC are very serious. The failings in the follow-up following a breach of a bail condition is unacceptable. My Department will be working closely with An Garda Síochána to ensure that appropriate systems are in place to bring such breaches to proper notice. In the debate earlier this week on the proposal to set up a commission of investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Shane O’Farrell, I moved an amendment to the motion. My amendment commits the Government to consider what further action may be necessary when all other investigations are completed. If such further action can best be achieved and advanced by a commission of investigation, the Government will take steps to do that.  I cannot be any clearer than that.

  At the heart of this is a tragedy and a family in pain. We should remember that they are searching for answers and deserve our sympathy and support. Once again, I extend my sincerest condolences to the O'Farrell family.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Before calling Senator Robbie Gallagher, I welcome to the Visitors Gallery Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell, the mother of Shane O'Farrell. She is very welcome.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I also welcome the Minister to the House at the invitation of myself, and Senators Pádraig Mac Lochlainn and David Norris.

  I warmly welcome Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell to the House. I extend my deepest sympathy to her and the O'Farrell family on the tragic loss of their beloved son, Shane. It is not natural for a mother or parent to lose a child. It goes against the grain of life and how life is meant to be. Mrs. O'Farrell and her family will have to live with this for the rest of their lives. What adds to the pain and sense of loss is the fact that if the organs of the State had been functioning properly, Mrs. O'Farrell would not be in this House this afternoon and none of us would be here discussing this entire sad affair.

  The O'Farrell family have put their own lives on hold since the sad loss of their son, Shane. They have worked tirelessly seeking justice and answers to questions that they rightly ask and to which they have failed to get proper answers so far. To date, the State has failed them in this entire matter. The family are at least entitled to know the facts of what happened on the night in the lead-up to the event. They have been waiting too long. They have been waiting six years for answers. It is not on for any State body to take six years to produce a report on any issue. For GSOC to take six years to conclude a report on this issue only adds to the pain that the O'Farrell family is going through. If we even had a conclusion after six years, we could live with it reluctantly. Alas, we are now told there are more investigations to be done before the family can get the answers to their questions that they deserve.

  This is about the O'Farrell family and their son being taken from them tragically. It is about how the State and the organs thereof, in not doing their job, have led us to where we are today. It is important for the O'Farrell family that they get the answers they truly deserve. Lucia O'Farrell said to me that this is not just about her family but also about the future. It is about putting mechanisms in place such that no family or parent will be in this House in time to come discussing a similar issue. It is important that the State learns from the many failings in this entire episode. It is important that we act swiftly to ensure the proper mechanisms are in place so that the organs of the State all know exactly what they are meant to be doing and their responsibilities. As matters stand in the case in question, that has not happened.

  No words of ours can bring Shane back. The O'Farrell family will have to live with the loss for the rest of their lives. We can do something, however. Events this week in the Lower House demonstrate that we are trying to do something collectively to address this issue. My party, under its justice spokesperson, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, has called for a commission of investigation to determine exactly what happened. Based on the Minister's comments during the week in the Lower House and this afternoon, it is evident that he has concerns about this but for the O'Farrell family to have closure to its story, it needs a commission of investigation to establish the full facts.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher We, as a society, also need a commission of investigation to make sure we put the proper mechanisms in place to ensure nobody else has to live with a sentence like the one the O'Farrell family has to live with. I plead with the Minister, therefore, to support the motion tabled by Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, in the Lower House this week in order that a commission of investigation can be established immediately. I see no reason this cannot happen and why it could not run parallel with the other work. Ultimately, it will be an independent investigation doing its own work and coming to its own conclusions. I ask that the Minister seriously consider this request and put mechanisms in place to ensure this happens without delay.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome a very remarkable woman, Mrs. Lucia O'Farrell, to the House. This is a Greek tragedy; I do not believe any other phrase can describe it. There are three principal actors. There is Shane O'Farrell, a remarkable young man who was brilliantly clever and with law degrees from both Trinity and UCD and who was a significant athlete. He was a handsome young man and was loved by his family. Then there is Lucia, his mother, a most remarkable woman. She would be an addition to any commission of inquiry. We have just had a meeting with her this afternoon and she presented a lucid, clear, detailed forensic examination of the timeline of everything that occurred in this appalling case. Then there is Zigimantas Gridziuska, a Lithuanian drug addict who had multiple convictions before he even came into this country. He arrived here as if he had a clean slate and then embarked on an extraordinary career of crime. There is no doubt whatever that had the Garda, at a series of stages, acted appropriately and as it is required to do by law, Shane O'Farrell would be alive today.

  Let us consider the Minister's speech. Some of it I welcome, including the tone of commiseration with the O'Farrell family. To a large extent, however, I believe he is just passing the parcel. Someone in the Garda may get a rap on the knuckles and that will be it. There are serious issues to be considered, including issues of principle and issues that affect not just this case but also a series of others, both in the past and future.

  The Minister stated: "For clarity, let me state that the independent review mechanism was not established to act as a commission of inquiry or investigation". That is one very good reason we should have such a commission of inquiry. My colleague, Senator Bacik, just indicated to me that the Lower House has just passed a resolution demanding an inquiry. That is the voice of the people. It will ring out from this Chamber also today.

  Matters arise such as the conflict of interest. I am not impugning any base motives but one of the senior counsel involved in the so-called independent review mechanism was somebody who had represented the driver of the car. There is a clear conflict of interest. The Minister says he had nothing to do with the independent review mechanism.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thought the Senator was not impugning anybody.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson The Minister will have an opportunity to reply. Senator Norris should continue.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thought the Senator was not impugning anyone.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Norris, please.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan And then the Senator goes on to impugn him.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am suggesting there is a conflict of interest.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson Senator Norris should speak through the Chair. He can make his comments and the Minister will have an opportunity to reply at the end.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am sure the Acting Chairman has told the Minister that too.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I have, yes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What was this man doing on the independent review commission at all? What was his function there?

  Then there is the question of the events on the day on which the incident took place. An hour before the incident, the car containing Mr. Gridziuska was stopped by the Garda.  He had no tax and no NCT. That car, by law, should have been seized. Had it been seized at that point Shane O'Farrell would still be alive.

I refer to the recommendations of the GSOC report. One is that attendance in court for victims, especially in cases involved with fatalities and serious assaults, can be particularly traumatic. Where has that come from? Of course it is traumatic, but what is really traumatic is the death of a beloved member of the family. The report says better communication between the courts, gardaí and the Prison Service might prevent significant issues being overlooked or missed. How many times was the situation regarding bail overlooked, missed or not adverted to? In my opinion the judge should always ask whether there was any question of bail.

I have been involved in this case since early 2012 when I had communication from Mrs. O'Farrell. She sent me a photograph which I have here of a happy scene - a mother, a father and a handsome, brilliant young son at a graduation. Here is what Mrs. O'Farrell wrote. I have her permission to read this into the record. I think it is important to put the human face on matters:

The inquest last week brought us to an all-time low. I heard details of how lovely Shane lost his life, dreadful details that no human being should ever be subjected to. My poor Shane was hit from behind, airborne for a while, carried on the roof, bonnet and windscreen of the car. He was then flung from the car and slid along the road. I simply could never have imagined in my worst nightmares that something so horrific could happen to someone so loved, so perfect.

Let us look at the catalogue of what has happened. First of all, Mr. Gridziuska came into the country trailing a list of criminal offences behind him, but he behaved as if he had no record. He had 42 convictions when he killed. This was not something that happened accidentally, just out of the blue. It was something that was almost inevitable given the character and behaviour of the principal perpetrator. He had seven convictions for heroin and he also abused alcohol. What state of mind was this person in driving a car - an untaxed, uninsured, untested car? That car was subsequently tested and it was found that when one turned the wheel to the left it continued to the left until it stopped and the same when it was turned to the right. He was in multiple breaches of bail. He was on bail from Carrickmacross District Court. He was on bail from Cavan. Seven months before he killed he attended Monaghan Circuit Court where the case was adjourned on condition that he stay out of trouble, not commit further theft offences and if he was arrested for theft, he was to be returned anywhere on the circuit and he could be jailed. He committed nine theft offences between that court order on 11 January 2011 and killing Shane on 2 August but the Garda failed to return him to Monaghan court.

  In May 2011, four months after the Monaghan Circuit Court appearance, he committed five days of theft in County Louth. The judge was not informed of the conditions set out at Monaghan Circuit Court and gave him a four-month sentence, but suspended it for two months. He also entered a bond to keep the peace. On 11 May in Dundalk he was convicted of speeding. Two weeks later he reoffended with another theft. No effort was made to return him to Monaghan Circuit Court as per the order of the court. No action was taken to reactivate the four-month suspended sentence.

  On 14 July, two weeks before he killed, he was arrested in Newry, Northern Ireland, for three offences of theft. The interesting thing is that the Garda misinformed the public about this. The PSNI contacted the Garda to get information on his background, so the Garda was well aware of the situation at that point. In all those circumstances, given the multiple offences, and the fact that had the Garda on numerous occasions acted as it was required to do, Shane O’Farrell would be alive today.

  It seems to me that the only thing to do is to have a full, independent and public inquiry. I have met with Mrs. O'Farrell on many occasions over the past six years and I have found her to be a very remarkable woman. She is a woman of extraordinary strength and intellectual vigour in pursuing justice for her son, but she needs closure. She needs to be able to close the book on this terrible case and to grieve properly for her beloved son.

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway I welcome the Minister to the House. I extend my sympathies to Lucia O'Farrell on the tragic death of her son, Shane, who should not have tragically died in the manner he did. It is clear that issues arise that were totally wrong and should not have happened. It is just not acceptable to have someone out on bail with multiple convictions who was allowed to drive a car and to cause this horrific tragedy.

  I listened carefully to what the Minister said in his address. The matter is with GSOC and it has yet to report on it. When GSOC does report on the matter and if it is then deemed necessary to carry out further investigations or to have a commission of investigation I have no doubt the Minister will do that. It is appropriate at this stage to allow GSOC to do the job it has to do.

  Only half an hour ago we spoke about the appointment of Patrick Sullivan to GSOC, somebody with a wealth of experience from the United States. He has worked with the FBI and the US Secret Service. He has a breadth of knowledge and now he has taken up a position with GSOC. There are people in GSOC who are very capable and very competent. I believe that the appropriate course of action at this stage is to allow GSOC to complete its report. Depending on what is in the report, if further steps have to be taken at that stage it is incumbent on everybody to do so, but we must allow GSOC to do the job it is charged with doing. It is a pointless exercise to have GSOC if we do not let it do the job it is charged with doing. It is easy to stand up and demand a commission of investigation and in many ways it is very hard to argue against it, but at the same time one must balance one's approach with the recognition of the professionalism of GSOC and the fact that it is in the process of investigating the matter and carrying out a report on it. The appropriate thing to do is to allow GSOC to get on with its work.

  It cannot be said often enough that this is a terrible tragedy. A family has lost a loved one. None of us can understand the trauma involved in that. I offer my condolences and those of the House to the O'Farrell family.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn I first met with Lucia and her husband, Jim, some years ago when I was the justice spokesperson for my party. As a councillor, a Deputy and now as a Senator I met many families over the years who were seeking justice and answers but I do not think I have ever met a family with such a depth of love for their lost loved one. Their grief was so intense it struck me hard that day and it has never left me. We are here today because Lucia O'Farrell and her family are never going to stop until the full truth is reached and the absolute calamity of the criminal justice system in regard to what happened and the circumstances that led to this case are addressed.  This was a whole-of-justice-system failing. It was not just a failing of numerous members of An Garda Síochána from the front line to the senior management; it was also a failure of our courts system, our prosecution service and of communications with our nearest neighbour in the North. When Mr. Gridziuska was before the courts in the North, An Garda Síochána was contacted by the PSNI to confirm his address and criminal record, which was done, but even then the alarm bells did not ring. This was a whole-of-system failing and to leave this to GSOC to investigate is an abdication of responsibility by the Government. The only way to get to the bottom of everything that went wrong is to conduct a public inquiry. I am proud to say, with Lucia and her daughter looking on from the Public Gallery now, having watched the Dáil vote earlier, that the elected Parliament of our people has sent a clear message to the Minister today. He must set up a public inquiry into all of the circumstances that led to the death of Shane O'Farrell.

  It is quite devastating to listen to the full details. Lucia briefed a number of Senators before this discussion today. She has her briefing document with her now. It is a long scroll that one has to hold above one's head to read which outlines the catalogue of offences committed by Mr. Gridziuska in his home country, in our State and in the neighbouring jurisdiction. He broke the law over and over again and time and again he got away with it. He made a mockery of our justice system, our Courts Service and our policing service. We cannot bring back Shane O'Farrell or undo the heartbreak that has been caused to Lucia and her family but we can build a justice system that learns from its mistakes and sorts out its grave failings. These were failings of human beings and of systems that led to a catastrophe for the O'Farrell family.

  The Minister must listen to the will of the people as voiced in the Dáil today. He must also listen to the voices in this House who are telling him that, with all due respect to GSOC, which has a role to play, this case is not for that organisation alone. This needs a full public inquiry. I wish to focus on GSOC for a moment. There are serious lessons for us here. It took six years for its report to be finalised but it is just not up to specification. It is terrible and there is no getting around that. It does not ask the hard questions of An Garda Síochána.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn It accepts the Garda version of events again and again. It does not deal with the fact that the PSNI asked for the records and received them from An Garda Síochána but no analysis was done. It does not deal with the fact that a vehicle with no insurance and no NCT which was being driven by a drug addict, with a number of other addicts as passengers, was not seized. The car was waved on. The report does not address the fact that again and again, the will of the courts was not implemented. All of this was just accepted and no hard questions were asked. In politics, we talk about people appearing on television programmes and getting a "soft interview". My God but An Garda Síochána got a soft interview. What a shocking failure. We need to give more powers to GSOC and to radically reform that organisation. That is the lesson from this episode. As it happens, GSOC was not the appropriate body to investigate this case because it is much wider than An Garda Síochána. As I said already, this is a whole of justice system calamity.

  The depth of love and grief and the determination and dedication of Lucia and Jim has never left me. That is why we are here today. At the same time, I wonder about all of the other families who have suffered. A lot of people in this country were brought up to believe in those in a uniform, in authority and with an education - our supposed "betters". How many poor families just accepted their lot? How many families, overwhelmed by their grief, just let it go? How many other families never got to have their say? On behalf of this House, I thank Lucia because her battle is not just for her beloved son; it is for all of the families who were failed by our justice system, by An Garda Síochána and by our courts on occasions.

  The Minister can smirk all he likes but he has a responsibility to respect the will of our Parliament and Dáil Éireann today, which has given him a democratic mandate to set up a public inquiry into the full circumstances of Shane O'Farrell's death. GSOC has submitted its first report on the case but it must now be put in the hands of a wider public inquiry because this is a whole-of-justice-system failing. It is not just a failing of An Garda Síochána but of the whole system. That is the Minister's responsibility. I totally endorse the comments made by Senator Norris. There was a conflict of interest in relation to the review mechanism. For God's sake, a five year old, never mind an eminent Minister, could see that. There is no point in questioning and challenging Senator Norris on his rightful assertion. This is a calamity from start to finish and the only tenable response is a full public inquiry with all of the participants coming before it, with all of the answers to be found and justice to be done. We must try to ensure that no other family goes through what the O'Farrells have gone through already.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister to the House and Ms Lucia O'Farrell to the Public Gallery. As others have done, I offer my sincere condolences to Lucia, Hannah and Gemma and to all of the O'Farrell family on the sad death of their son and brother Shane on 2 August, 2011. As colleagues have said, Shane had a long connection with Trinity College in Dublin. He studied there for a Master's degree in law and had just finished that when he was so tragically killed. His sisters are also graduates of the law school of Trinity College. Like others, I know this case and am aware that my Labour Party colleagues, Deputy Howlin and Senator Nash have been actively engaged on it for some years. I know from speaking with Deputy Howlin that he asked the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, some years ago to initiate a scoping inquiry into the death of Shane O'Farrell to see if a commission of investigation was warranted. Had that been followed up at the time, it would have met the needs of the family in terms of what they now seek. Indeed, the Dáil has just voted to require a public inquiry into the killing of Shane and the into the circumstances surrounding the State's failures.

  I am glad that the Minister has acknowledged in both Houses, the failings of the State in respect of Shane's case but the question now is what we, as legislators, do about those failings. As Deputy Sherlock said earlier this week in the Dáil, what the O'Farrell family needs is more than empty platitudes; we need to see action on this. I commend the family, and Lucia in particular, on the forensic work they have done in compiling such a detailed file on the case - on the perpetrator and on the events leading up Shane's death on 2 August and the way in which the case was dealt with subsequently. The submission made to the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly's plenary session by Mr. Nick Scott on behalf of the family provides an extremely concise and comprehensive account of the numerous failings.  They included permitting Zigimantas Gridziuska the perpetrator of Shane's death to be at liberty on 2 August at a time when he was, in fact, in breach of bail orders and suspended sentences, and had been sentenced to a custodial term, which he did not serve. Less than one hour before Shane O'Farrell's death, the car in which Mr. Gridziuska was a passenger had been stopped in a drug squad traffic stop and the car was then able to continue. Failings following the hit and run are also listed, such as ensuring that criminal justice was effective with regard to the further charges being faced by Mr. Gridziuska before the courts, at which points the Garda failed to raise the breaches of bail and suspended sentences and where answers were not given to judges in courts who were seeking information, and information was not provided.

  When we consider the litany of failings we see they were failings of communication within and between the different courts and justice agencies in our system, as well as failings on a cross-Border basis between the courts in the North and the South. It is especially sad when we look at the dates. On 14 July 2011, just two weeks before Shane O'Farrell was killed, Gridziuska had been arrested in Newry and the PSNI had contacted the Garda to confirm his address and check his criminal background. He received a suspended sentence the following day from a Newry court, but no steps were taken to ensure a joined-up action by the Garda in this jurisdiction and the PSNI in the North, which would have ensured enforcement of court orders made against Mr. Gridziuska. I will not go through all of the details of the failings, but the forensic work by the family clearly outlines the numerous failings. I have referred to the Newry court, but there were also courts in Border counties in this jurisdiction. It is not a coincidence that this case arises from Border and cross-Border incidents. As Members are aware, before the disclosures tribunal currently there are gardaí who were in charge in Carrickmacross and other Garda stations at the time. Moreover, policing on a cross-Border basis and in Border counties here has been the subject of numerous critical reports over recent years. It is a failing of all of us that we have never joined those reports up. As the Minister is aware, I was a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality for several years and during that time, the committee heard from the Garda Inspectorate and addressed Seán Guerin's report. There also was the Morris tribunal and all of these reports, many of which focus on policing in the Border counties such as Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal. The Minister is aware that there has been a whole sequence of findings that were highly critical of our practice of policing. In his own speech, the Minister referred to the GSOC report into Shane's death, that was finally produced in April this year. The end of that report summarises some of the issues arising from problems in the justice system. I believe the GSOC report could have gone a lot further, to say the least, simply by referring back to the many criticisms levelled at gardaí and policing by the policing inspectorate and others. Some of those criticisms have been: lack of co-ordination; lack of communication internally; sloppiness in following up on complaints made; lack of respect for victims and families of victims and problems with information technology, IT. While these may be mundane to point out, they can be critical. When one reads through the forensic list of failings, one sees there are problems with IT systems, and a lack of ability to use IT systems. This is not a new point, it has been made by the Garda Inspectorate also. Seán Guerin's report refers to lack of supervision and probationary gardaí being appointed to investigate quite serious cases in many instances, and yet not being given the support, supervision and mentoring from senior colleagues that would have been required to enable effective investigations. We know that all of these policing failings form a context within which this case has arisen.

  There has also been the immense delay in GSOC producing the report. As Senator Mac Lochlainn has pointed out, the Dáil has just voted two to one in support of holding a public inquiry into this case and in support of a motion, as amended, which criticised GSOC for having a timeframe that was not acceptable for producing such a report. I am a defender of GSOC. I supported its establishment but I was somewhat critical of the lack of powers given to the organisation when it was originally set up in 2005. Given the immense delay, however, and the multiple failings both within policing and the justice system with regard to lack of communication, the O'Farrell family clearly has lost faith in the ability of GSOC to investigate the matter adequately. I practised in the District Court for many years in criminal practice and am aware of many of the difficulties and issues that arise. I believe it would be useful to have a public inquiry and commission of investigation into this case. It would serve a useful function, not only in bringing closure and adequate information to this desperately grieving family that is so directly affected, it would also serve a useful function to us all in giving us a focal point to outline how the justice system can be remedied so it will no longer fail victims of crime and their families in the way Shane's family has been failed. It would help us to see precisely where the errors arise in communication, lack of supervision or lack of joined-up practice in our policing, especially our Border policing. It would enable us to improve upon the system and make sure that no family suffers in the way Shane O'Farrell's family is suffering.

  I ask the Minister to respect the vote of the Dáil. He did not refer to the vote in his statement but what does the Minister propose to do to ensure the Dáil vote today in support of the public inquiry is carried out? On behalf of the Labour Party, I endorse the call for a public inquiry.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, and on my own behalf, I send my condolences to the O'Farrell family, especially to Lucia who I met earlier and to her daughter Gemma, who I know personally in a work capacity. I have been aware of the case for a long time and I had never had the honour of meeting Lucia until today. We met in LH 2000 in a small room where she was able to give us a forensic analysis on the inadequacies and of the timeline around the case. I could not believe the number of failings she was able to point out. It was not just one or two; we are talking about hundreds of failings within the system. As other Members have pointed out, the only real way we can identify these failings, improve upon them and ensure they do not happen again is through the mechanism of a public inquiry. I am glad that the Lower House has passed a motion demanding a public inquiry with a significant majority of two to one. Clearly, this is the will of the people and it is incumbent on the Minister to listen to his colleagues in the Lower House. A public inquiry such as this needs to be set up immediately and without any delay. We saw unbelievable delays in the GSOC report and the family were waiting for six years but really still have nothing. GSOC is still waiting to see whether or not disciplinary sanctions should be brought against various members of the Garda. As a public representative it is very hard to accept this and it must be even harder for the family. It is very hard to understand why nobody is being brought to task for inadequacies or for wrongdoing.

  We know that Shane O'Farrell died following a very tragic road accident in Monaghan. He was killed in a hit and run by Zigimantas Gridziuska. When Shane was killed Mr. Gridziuska was on bail for a number of offences and had breached the conditions of that bail. He was serving suspended sentences that should have been activated had the courts been informed of his convictions. This is the communications aspect of the case, which fell very short. There appears to have been absolutely no sharing of information between the Garda and the courts. This really has to change. We have to look at improving this mechanism, be it by improving the computer systems or by being more forthcoming to the courts. A public inquiry will be able to address this issue, isolate it and effect change properly.

  Ultimately, we know that had Mr. Gridziuska been in prison, he would not have been at liberty that day and Shane O'Farrell would not have been tragically killed. I commend the family, who has courageously, and in a very dignified way, pursued justice for Shane. They have been unrelenting in their quest for justice and they have done so with the utmost honour to Shane's life.  They have also done a serious service to other families around the country who have struggled with these failings but who may not have been able to voice them or be an advocate like Lucia has been. Lucia had the benefit of her own forensic skills but also the skills of her daughter, Gemma, and other family members who were able to club together. They had the energy, will and determination to keep going with this case to ensure that they had the answers they needed so they could finally put this to bed, grieve and know that they had done right by Shane and done everything they could to show that Shane's life was worthwhile and what had happened to him would not happen again to any other person or family in this country.

  Shane's death was a great tragedy and it has highlighted so many inadequacies in our criminal justice system. I will not go through all of the inadequacies, many Members of the House have already done so, especially regarding the day in question when, unbelievably, Mr. Gridziuska's car was pulled over one hour before Shane was killed. The car did not have a valid NCT, passengers included known drug dealers and the car was in an awful state of repair. The fact that it was not taken off the road and an hour later Shane was killed does not bear thinking about. It is unbelievable that this occurred. I implore the Minister to accept the resolution that was passed in the Lower House and let us know what steps he is taking to set up a public inquiry without delay.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I acknowledge that at the heart of this debate and tragedy is a family suffering great loss and grieving for the loss of a loving and loved family member. Having said that I thank Senators for their remarks and comments, all of which I have carefully noted. I will do three things. I will reflect on the comments made by Senators this afternoon. In response to the invitation of Senator Bacik I will reflect on the Dáil vote - particulars of which were not in my possession when I was speaking. I will also repeat a commitment that was given to Mrs. O'Farrell and her family regarding the question of a further investigation.

  I acknowledge the issue of due process here and the fact that there is an investigation under way as we speak at the hands of an independent body, namely, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I am mindful of the comments that have been made here in the Seanad, notwithstanding that. I will certainly not rule out further action in the form of a commission of investigation. If such a commission is set up we will all have an opportunity to discuss its terms of reference in due course. In the meantime, my reflection will include the fact that there is a measure of due process to be considered and honoured insofar as the current, independent investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is concerned. I ask for a period of reflection and I am happy to report back to the House in due course.

Acting Chairman (Senator Diarmuid Wilson): Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I thank the Minister. That concludes statements on the tragic death of Shane O'Farrell. When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway At 2.30 p.m. next Tuesday.

  The Seanad adjourned at 3.15 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 19 June 2018.


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