Shatter insists Wallace has no credibility on penalty points

Minister for Justice says Wexford TD escaped charge thanks to ‘garda discretion’

Independent TD Mick Wallace:  said he had no recall of being warned about using his mobile phone while driving. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Independent TD Mick Wallace: said he had no recall of being warned about using his mobile phone while driving. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has again insisted that Independent TD Mick Wallace escaped penalty points last year because of “discretionary consideration afforded to him by An Garda Síochána”.

He said this evening it was a “matter of public importance” that people were able to “assess the credibility of the Deputy’s position.”

Mr Wallace has disputed Mr Shatter’s claim that a garda let him off with a warning about using his mobile phone while driving last year, when the pair appeared on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night. This afternoon Mr Wallace said he was “unware of the incident that the Minister is referring to”.

But Mr Shatter has released a statement this evening in which he said: “Following upon his asserting last night that the Gardaí should not, in any circumstances, use their discretionary powers to terminate Fixed Charge Notices regardless of any humanitarian issue, I believed it was a matter of public importance that those viewing the programme be in a position to assess the credibility of the Deputy’s position.

“By making a pretence, for political purposes, that he is of the view that gardaí should not use their discretionary powers in ease of a member of the general public whilst concealing the fact that Garda discretion had been exercised in relation to himself, Deputy Wallace was last night effectively asserting that discretionary consideration afforded to him by An Garda Síochána should not be extended to others. I do not believe such an approach to be either acceptable or credible.”

The Wexford deputy earlier said he was in the process of making a complaint on the matter to the Standards in Public Office Commission under Section 4 of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001.

“I will also be requesting that the Data Protection Commissioner investigate any possible breach of the Data Protection legislation, the basis for the Minister’s allegation, the circumstances surrounding the seeking and providing of any personal data to the Minister in preparation for the Prime Time debate, and the identity and role of all persons involved,” he said.

Mr Shatter last night accused Mr Wallace and other TDs of having made “wild and exaggerated claims” about the handling of penalty points by gardaí and levelling “very serious allegations” against the force which had been shown to be untrue following a major investigation.

On RTÉ’s Prime Time programme, Mr Shatter said Mr Wallace appeared to have a problem with gardaí exercising discretion, before suggesting the Independent TD had benefitted from such discretion. “As Deputy Wallace knows, even without issuing tickets the gardaí exercise discretion,” he said.

“Deputy Wallace himself was stopped on a mobile phone last May by members of An Garda Síochána and he was advised by the guard who stopped him that a fixed ticket charge could issue and he could be given penalty points,” he said. “But the garda apparently, as I’m advised, used his discretion and warned him and told him not to do it again.”

Mr Wallace said: “That’s news to me.”

Asked by presenter Pat Kenny if he did not recall the incident, Mr Wallace said: “I don’t know”.

Asked by Kenny if he was concerned that Mr Shatter “should know about your private business dealing with the gardaí”, Mr Wallace said he was “not remotely worried about what the Minister knows”.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins earlier expressed “serious concern” about Mr Shatter’s comments. Mr Collins said Mr Shatter was “apparently relying on private information provided to him by the gardaí”.

He said what he described as “privileged information” should be treated with respect and claimed the incident raised questions about the Minister’s judgement.

“Fianna Fáil holds no brief for Mick Wallace, but the issues raised by Shatter’s intervention are bigger and more important than party politics or the hypocrisy of the Dáil Technical Group. They include the security of citizens’ private information, the right to due process and the use of private details for political purposes,” Mr Collins said.

“Fianna Fáil has expressed growing concern about the behaviour and attitude of Alan Shatter and the effect these are having on the institutions he has responsibility for. His behaviour last evening, where he essentially betrayed the confidence of the gardaí and used private, privileged information to score a political point against an opponent further justifies those concerns.”

Mr Collins said he was calling on Mr Shatter to make a statement on the matter at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Shatter’s revelation was described as potentially quite serious by former minister of state Róisín Shortall, when she appeared on Kenny’s radio programme this morning.