Work starts today on changes to penalty points system

Is ‘sorry’ not in the Justice Minister’s dictionary, FF asks in whistleblower row

Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 14:22

The group charged with implementing the 37 recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate report on the penalty points system starts work this afternoon, with its first meeting.

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton told the Dáil the joint group would work to deal with the “very severe weaknesses” in the system identified in the report, which was published yesterday.

Mr Bruton also defended his Cabinet colleague Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and insisted “it is not the case that the Minister for Justice refused to acknowledge the role played by whistleblowers. He openly acknowledged that the whistleblowers and their persistence has been crucial in getting to this point.”

He was responding to Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary who accused Mr Shatter of “abusing the privileges of the legislature to abuse the reputation of a servant of the State”.

He said Mr Shatter tried to sully the reputation of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe whose intervention led to the report and the changes to be implemented in the penalty point system.

Mr Calleary asked: “Why does he not say ‘sorry’. Is it not in his dictionary? He has committed a wrong, a serious wrong. The Garda Inspectorate had proved that Sgt Maurice McCabe gave credible evidence.”

The Fianna Fáil TD said Minister for Health James Reilly “champions himself as trying to change the culture in the health service and encouraging people, persuading staff to say ‘sorry’.

“Why is the Taoiseach allowing a situation that a Minister abuses his office in this House and on the national airwaves and doesn’t force him to apologise?”

He said the ‘army of spindoctors’ around the Taoiseach are “portraying him as a mighty mouse this week because of Frank Flannery stepping aside. But it seems when it comes to Minister Shatter the Taoiseach is a church mouse. Surely Minister Shatter owes an apology to Sgt McCabe for trying to destroy his reputation, using the privilege of this House.”

But Mr Bruton replied: “It is simply not true that the Minister for Justice committed any serious wrong. He has acted absolutely correctly in respect of the handling of all the complaints that came his way.” The Minister “has been fully accountable”.

In relation to Sgt McCabe and co-operation with an internal Garda investigation into complaints, Mr Bruton repeated the Taoiseach’s comments that different opinions could be formed as to what went wrong.

“Clearly it didn’t happen on either side they way one would want an investigation to be conducted” and he added that a lot of the problems happened on “Fianna Fáil’s watch”.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh said if the Minister “is not manly enough to apologise is it time for him to give up office” and he asked Mr Bruton would he push the Minister to apologise.

He said the Minister should also ask the Garda Commissioner to apologise to Sgt McCabe and retired Garda John Wilson “for the insult to them by the way he has stood over the system and the corruption and malpractice that has been exposed”.

But Mr Bruton repeated “I do not accept that the Minister for Justice has failed in any respect”. He had acted properly in all cases and Mr Bruton accused the Opposition of politicising the issue.

He also said the Garda Commissioner had given the context in which he had described the whistleblowers’ actions as “disgusting”.

Asked if the Commissioner had failed, Mr Bruton said he had put in place new measures as a result of the initial assessment in the wake of the allegations about abuses of the system. The Garda Inspectorate “has clearly said the procedures there need further improvement and has set out a different approach”.