Shatter denies he was cautioned by gardaí at checkpoint in 2011
Minister admits he was asked to supply breath test on a previous occasion but failed to complete task because of asthma
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has denied he was cautioned by gardaí at a checkpoint just prior to becoming Minister in 2011 but has admitted he was stopped by officers and asked to supply a breath test on a previous occasion.
Mr Shatter was responding to issues raised in the Dáil by Independent TD Mattie McGrath.
During Leaders’ Questions, Mr McGrath asked Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore if he or Taoiseach Enda Kenny were aware that Mr Shatter was stopped at a checkpoint in Dublin in late February or March 2011.
In a statement this evening, Mr Shatter denied any such event occurred at the time stated by Deputy McGrath.
However, he said he recalled an occasion in 2009, or possibly late 2008, when he was stopped at a Garda night-time mandatory checkpoint in Pembroke Street in Dublin.
“There was a queue of motorists and when I was reached, like those before me, my road tax and insurance discs were checked and I was asked to exhale into a breathalyser,” Mr Shatter said.
“I did so but failed to fully complete the task due to my being asthmatic.”
“I explained this to the garda. I also explained that I was on my way home from Dáil Éireann and that I had consumed no alcohol of any nature that day. The garda consulted with another garda and I was waved on.”
Mr Shatter inisted there was no question of his having consumed any alcohol, nor of him having committed any offence under the Road Traffic Acts.
“I heard no further of the matter until I learnt it was raised by Deputy McGrath in questions today to the Tánaiste,” he added.
Earlier Mr Gilmore responded to Mr McGrath’s question by saying he knew nothing about an alleged incident involving Mr Shatter in late February or March 2011.
This was in the period between the general election and Mr Shatter’s appointment as Minister for Justice.
Mr McGrath had asked whether Mr Gilmore, or the Taoiseach, was aware Mr Shatter was cautioned by a garda at the checkpoint under the Road Traffic Act 2010, or whether the gardaí involved had used their discretion.
Mr McGrath asked whether Mr Shatter, who was not present in the Dáil, had been asked to produce a breath specimen under the Act’s mandatory provision, and “whether his behaviour and reaction to this request was appropriate and indeed cordial, or whether he attempted to use the privilege of travelling to and from the Dáil as a means of avoiding giving the breath test’’.
He asked whether Mr Shatter had ultimately given a breath specimen.
Mr Gilmore said he had no idea whether the Minister for Justice was stopped by gardaí before or after the election. “How would I know that ?’’ he asked.
Mr McGrath said he was raising the matter in the context of the penalty points controversy. There must be one law applying to all citizens, he added.
He said that while he did not expect the Tánaiste to know about the incident, he would expect Mr Gilmore and the Taoiseach to inform themselves about it.
Mr Shatter has been under intense pressure over his handling of the controversy surrounding the quashing of fixed charged penalties for road traffic offences. He revealed that Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan had briefed him about Mr Wallace being stopped by a garda at the Five Lamps in north Dublin while using a phone and driving. Mr Shatter said it had been introduced as an aside and was necessary in case Mr Wallace had revealed it himself. Mr Callinan has not commented on the briefing.