Dáil halted in penalty points row

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

The Dáil  was suspended twice this morning after Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn repeatedly refused to leave the chamber in a row over the penalty points controversy.

In a statement to the House, Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett  said he was referring comments by United Left Alliance TD Joan Collins to the Committee on Procedures and Privileges after the Dublin South Central TD named three people in whose cases penalty points were allegedly inappropriately struck out.

Mr Barrett said naming people contravened the rules of the House and he was referring the matter to the committee. He said he had written to a number of TDs who had previously raised the issue warning them not to name individuals.

“The deputy was also cautioned by the chair at the time of the remarks,” Mr Barrett said. “In view of these events, and the prior notice given to the deputies, I regard Deputy Collins’ references as a serious breach of privilege and I’m referring the matter to the Committee of Procedure and Privileges.”

But Mr MacLochlainn accused him of “double standards” following a complaint by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams who had asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday to withdraw remarks he made linking Mr Adams to Jean McConville, the woman who was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1972 and whose remains were discovered three decades later.

Mr Adams claimed he had been defamed by the Taoiseach's comments.

When Mr Barrett told Mr MacLochlainn to sit down and he refused to do and the Ceann Comhairle shouted at him to “get out”.

The TD again refused to leave and a vote was taken to remove him from the House. Afterwards the Donegal North East TD remained seated and the House was suspended for 15 minutes.

When it returned Mr MacLochlainn again refused to leave and the House was suspended for a further 30 minutes.  The Dáil voted to suspend Mr MacLochlainn from service for three working days.

Earlier, independent TD Mick Wallace rejected a claim by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter that deputies seeking to name individuals whose penalty points have been cancelled by gardaí were using the pretext of wanting a public inquiry when they really wanted “a hanging”.

Calling for a public inquiry, Mr Wallace claimed there was evidence that gardaí had terminated speeding fines for over 50,000 individuals. Another 50,000 “assortment of fines” had been terminated, Mr Wallace alleged.

Mr Shatter said yesterday that “documentation forwarded to the (Garda) Commissioner contained 402 allegations”, but a number of allegations were duplicated and reduced “the actual allegations listed to 197”.

Mr Wallace said this morning that an unnamed garda gave the information to a “confidential recipient” who then gave it to the Minister and that it, in turn, was finally handed to the Garda Commissioner.

“The Commissioner is the one who is being questioned – so you have the Commissioner investigating himself,” Mr Wallace told Morning Ireland. “There has to be a public inquiry – there has to be independence – you cannot have the gardaí investigating themselves – sure that’s nonsense.”