Inquiry needed into fatal 2011 hit-and-run of student, says Martin

Family waiting for explanation for son’s death by driver who should have been in jail

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin  Photograph: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photograph: Gareth Chaney, Collins

 

A public inquiry should be held into the Garda handling of the hit-and-run killing of 23-year-old student Shane O’Farrell by a driver who should have been in prison, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

He told the Dáil that if the criminal justice system had been working properly the driver, Zigimantas Gridzuiska, would have been in jail because he had been in breach of bail conditions at least 18 times and had suspended sentences.

Mr Martin said the case “reveals shocking malpractice and dysfunction in the criminal justice system at all levels”. Calling for the inquiry into how gardaí dealt with the case in which Mr O’Farrell was knocked off his bicycle as he cycled towards Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan on August 2nd, 2011. He said the driver “had an extensive criminal background, with at least 40 previous convictions for a variety of offences”.

“In June 2010, a year before Shane’s death, he [Gridziuska] was sentenced to six months in prison, but he never served one day of it. We do not know why.”

Mr Martin said that an hour before Mr O’Farrell was killed, Gridziuska was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by gardaí, who believed the car’s occupants were in possession of a controlled substance. The vehicle was being driven by an uninsured driver, but gardaí selected Gridziuska to switch from being a passenger to being the driver.

The Fianna Fáil leader said Mr O’Farrell’s parents, Lucia and Jim, were still waiting for a proper explanation almost six years after the incident.

Dysfunction

Mr Martin said the O’Farrell family was misled by gardaí about the facts of their son’s death. He said the courts were misled by An Garda and others and were not informed of the relevant information when judges asked questions about the accused. He said it’s time the Oireachtas responded in the only way possible and established an inquiry into all aspects of the case to enable the dysfunction in the criminal justice system highlighted by the case to be put right.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton, standing in for the Taoiseach, expressed his sympathy for the family and said Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, who had met the family, was considering the issues. He was unable to say whether a public inquiry could be held as he did not have access to sufficient facts or detail.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin described the case as most distressing and pointed out that almost a month after a debate on urgently-needed Garda reforms “we have yet to see concrete results”. He said the Dáil agreed on the need to enhance the powers of the Policing Authority and on the need to establish a root-and-branch Patten-style review. But “once the spotlight disappears so does the sense of urgency”, Mr Howlin added.

Mr Bruton said there was no delay in establishing the Charleton commission which is investigating allegations of malpractice by senior gardaí against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. The commission was coming at the right time and significant progress was being made in relation to An Garda Síochána, he said.