Farrell was criticised in the Seanad and beyond in May 1990. The house was debating the Larceny Bill 1989, and an amendment by Joe Costello proposed to remove the clause in existing legislation which made "the abominable crime of buggery" a criminal offence. Farrell launched an attack on the opposition parties and on gay senator David Norris, in which he said "I am amazed at Senator Norris, an educated, intelligent man like him, is so obsessed with his favourite sexual activity that he put that before the welfare of the people who are being robbed and plundered", and went on to say "We are going, with our amendment to allow perverts of all kinds". Farrell's comments were criticised by senators from all parties, including Tras Honan, a former Cathaoirleach, and Fine Gael called his remarks "vicious".
The following day, Farrell made a statement to the Seanad in which he said that his remarks were "completely misconstrued" and that "the record of the House will show I was specifically speaking about blackmail". He added "I am very sorry about the use of the word 'pervert'. I did not mean it in the context … I did not mean it to affect anybody in this House and I was not referring to anybody in this House". The Cathoirleach, Seán Doherty, did not permit any comment or debate on Farell's statement.
He died on 8 April 2010 in Sligo General Hospital.