Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is open to holding a public inquiry into claims that repeated Garda failures to arrest a Lithuanian man who later killed an Irish man in a hit-and-run have been covered up.
Mr Varadkar has faced cross-party demands for a formal investigation to be launched due to fears that an imminent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) report — which has dismissed serious allegations — is a whitewash.
In a press launch held two years after former taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was open to holding a public inquiry into what happened before failing to do so, the family of 23-year-old Monaghan native Shane O’Farrell demanded an inquiry into his death.
Backed by at least 21 opposition TDs from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, and Solidarity-People Before Profit, including Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan, Mr O’Farrell’s mother Lucia O’Farrell said an inquiry is now needed.
Ms O’Farrell said that on August 2, 2011, her son was killed while cycling home when he was struck by a car driven by Zigimantas Gradzuiska.
Mr Gradzuiska, a Lithuanian national, had a series of previous convictions for offences including aggravated burglary, road traffic offences, and handling stolen property on both sides of the border.
Mr Gradzuiska was on bail from both Monaghan and Cavan district courts when he killed Mr O’Farrell in a hit-and-run.
However, despite his lengthy list of offences, a decision was made for him to leave the country, while there was no investigation into the repeated failure of officers on both sides of the border to communicate with each other.
In addition, Ms O’Farrell said yesterday she believes Mr Gradzuiska is now back in the country.
Speaking at the launch, Ms O’Farrell said while a Gsoc report is due to be published in the coming days she understands it will fail to find anyone at fault for what happened, and called for a public inquiry into the controversy.
Backing her calls, Mr O’Callaghan said: “Had the justice system acted efficiently he would have been in jail.”
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said there has been a “cover up”, while former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams noted ex-taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to consider an inquiry before failing to do so.
Asked about the matter in the Dáil by Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Brid Smith, Mr Varadkar said the imminent Gsoc report has examined 56 allegations, the majority of which he said are “unsubstantiated”.
However, like Mr Kenny two years ago, he said he will consider launching a full public inquiry into what happened if the evidence proves there is a need to act.
After facing cross-party Opposition claims that serious issues surrounding the case have been covered up and that a public inquiry is now needed, Mr Varadkar said: “I understand that the Gsoc investigation is now complete and the report has been received by the O’Farrell family, the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the Garda Commissioner.
“Gsoc intends to publish its report in the coming days. It is appropriate to allow this to happen so that people can read it before there is a further discussion in the House.” He added he is not ruling out an inquiry.
The Seanad separately agreed yesterday to hold a special debate with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in a fortnight’s time over serious concerns surrounding the actions of the gardaí and justice system in the case.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved