Opposition says questions remain about information on Wallace ‘ticking-off’

Academic says sharing of such information ‘not within spirit of the law’

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: under pressure over high-level garda briefing

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: under pressure over high-level garda briefing

Thu, May 23, 2013, 09:49

Leading Opposition figures and academics have said significant questions remain surrounding a high-level Garda briefing to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter about a minor “ticking-off” a TD received when using his mobile phone while driving.

Independent TD Mick Wallace was given a brief verbal warning by gardaí over the incident in May 2012.

Neither Mr Shatter nor the Garda Síochána have divulged how the incident was recorded by gardaí and came to form part of a briefing by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to Mr Shatter about the Garda investigation into penalty points.

There was renewed criticism yesterday of the commissioner passing on the information, of Mr Shatter’s decision to disclose the private information on national television and of the treatment of two Garda whistle-blowers who alleged irregularities in how penalty points were quashed.

Gilmore challenged
In the Dáil, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin challenged Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore over why no one had explained how the record of Mr Wallace’s ticking off was made and retained.

Mr Gilmore defended Mr Shatter, s aying he had apologised, but accepted issues with which the Garda was dealing “should not come into the public domain, unless there is an actual charge ” .

Independent TD Clar e Daly said there was a contradiction between the Taoiseach and Mr Shatter on when he first learned of the whistleblowers ’ allegations.

Ms Daly, as well as Mr Wallace, have said an email sent from the Taoiseach suggested Mr Shatter was informed in July 2012, not September, as he has said.

However, a spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said he learned of it in September. She said the email sent in July related to “a previous written complaint, which covered a wide range of allegations but which did not include the documentation now under discussion ”.

One-line response
Asked several questions yesterday by The Irish Times including how the commissioner came to get the information about Mr Wallace and how he came to pass it on to Mr Shatter, the Garda press office issued a one-line statement : “Communication between the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and Equality is confidential. The Commissioner discharged his statutory functions in accordance with the Garda Síochána Act 2005.”

Vicky Conway, an academic who has written two books on policing in Ireland, said the establishment of a policing authority was required to eliminate that type of exchange between the commissioner and the Minister for Justice.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 allowed the commissioner to give information on matters which in his opinion should be brought to the Minister’s attention, but this was “exceptionally broad”, said Ms Conway, a lecturer in Kent University.

Eoin O’Dell, associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin said: “ This swapping of personal information isn’t a good thing in a situation where it ought to be protected and respected ” .