Check against delivery
I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this matter which I know is of importance to him – as it is to me as Minister. I thank the Deputy for the opportunity to update the House on developments.
At the outset, I would like to clarify a number of issues that have arisen in the public domain before elaborating on the work that has taken place to bring us to this point.
First, as I have said in Parliamentary Questions and other fora, the terms of reference of the scoping exercise being conducted by Judge Haughton have been finalised.
While the terms of reference for the scoping exercise are focused, they allow for review of the issues intended. I can assure the Deputy that there is no intention on my part to in any way limit the scoping exercise.
Second, as Judge Haughton has been asked to make an initial report by mid-November, I am expecting to receive that interim report in the near future.
I expect that Judge Haughton will, in that interim report, set out for me the expected time-frame for completion of the scoping exercise he has been charged with.
Third, I want to be very clear that Judge Haughton is free to make any recommendation he sees fit, including the establishment of any form of statutory or non-statutory inquiry.
And finally, should Judge Haughton recommend an inquiry, of whatever type, I have asked him to provide draft terms of reference for such an inquiry.
I hope this clarifies any concern or confusion which may have arisen.
I now want to address the question of the terms of reference of Judge Haughton’s scoping exercise in greater detail. As the Deputy will appreciate, in establishing the scoping exercise itself and in determining its terms of reference, I have been guided by legal advice from the Attorney General. In advance of finalising the terms of reference, the most recent advice available to my Department recommended more focussed and specific terms of reference to take account of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shatter v Guerin case. Notwithstanding this requirement to amend the original draft terms of reference, it is importance to say clearly that there is no impediment on Judge Haughton to make any recommendation he sees fit in relation to any future inquiry.
Furthermore, the O’Farrell family are free to make any representations to Judge Haughton in relation to any matter that they would wish to see inquired into in any future inquiry.
Judge Haughton is an experienced and respected Judge. He is also very dedicated to the work he has been asked to undertake. As I have said, the Judge is free to make any recommendation he sees fit in relation to this matter. I know he has been engaging with the O’Farrell family and I would hope to see that engagement continuing. For my part, I am anxious to make progress on this matter but as Minister for Justice and Equality, I must endeavour to at all times act within the law – and that is what I am seeking to do with this sensitive and tragic case.
I look forward to receipt of Judge Haughton’s initial report this month.