Garda sources say Shatter incident was not ‘major issue’

‘The report isn’t missing because there was no report’

 

The incident during which Minister for Justice Alan Shatter was stopped at a Garda checkpoint while driving only to depart within minutes without providing a proper breath sample was not regarded as a “major issue” and generated no Garda report or documentation of any description, Garda sources have told The Irish Times.

The lack of any documentation on the matter means that despite checking of the Garda’s PULSE computer database and a trawl for any reports or mention of the incident in writing, nothing has been found to even confirm the date of the incident.

“It is not even clear to us when this happened, was it late 2008 or into 2009” said one source.

“The Garda at the checkpoint did not think it was significant enough for her to raise it with management at local level and there was never any report drawn up or any computer entry.”

The Garda member who spoke to Mr Shatter on the night in question at the random drink driving checkpoint in Dublin’s south inner city is currently enjoying a period of leave which began before the current controversy surrounding Mr Shatter emerged.

Mr Shatte has issued a number of statements on the controversy via email from the Department of Justice press office. However, he has yet to address the Dáil on the matter.

The latest statement was issued at 6.30am today in response to newspaper coverage that suggested a Garda report on the incident on Pembroke St in late 2008 or early 2009 was now “missing”. The articles also suggested Mr Shatter had at the checkpoint told the gardaí he could not be stopped because he was coming from the Dáil.

Senior sources have told The Irish Times they do not believe the “report” on the incident is now “missing” because the matter was not viewed with sufficient seriousness at the time for the Garda in question to make any record of it or raise it with her superiors.

“The report isn’t missing because there was no report,” said one source.

Mr Shatter said in a statement last week that when he was stopped at the checkpoint in a queue of vehicles, his car tax and insurance were checked and he was asked to provide a sample of breath.

He could not recall if the incident had occurred in 2008 or 2009. He was Fine Gael spokesman in justice at the time.

He said while he complied with the request he was unable to provide the sample because of his asthma and he explained his condition to the garda, one of four at the checkpoint.

He added in the statement of last Thursday: “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. There was no question of my having consumed any alcohol, nor of my having committed any offence under the Road Traffic Acts.”

Garda sources who have spoken to The Irish Times said when Mr Shatter mentioned at the checkpoint that he was coming from the Dáil, the garda dealing with him believed he was suggesting he could not be stopped or detained because he was coming from the Dáil.

Article 15.13 of the Constitution states: “The members of each House of the Oireachtas shall, except in case of treason as defined in this Constitution, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest in going to and returning from, and while within the precincts of, either House...”

However, the article deals only with the arrest of a TD or Senator coming to and from the Dáil or Seanad. It does not offer blanket immunity from being questioned or spoken to by a garda, or even being prosecuted for an offence committed on the way to or from the Oireachtas that did not result in being arrested at the time.

Mr Shatter has made no mention in his statements thus far of citing at the checkpoint any provision that excused him from in any way being impeded by the checkpoint.

Senior sources said while the gardaí present could not recall verbatim what was said they could recall Mr Shatter making mention of the Dáil. It was possible the member at the scene had read into the mention of the Dáil a meaning that Mr Shatter had not intended, said one source.

“It’s very hard to recall something like that when it’s so long ago and when you are dealing with so many people every day; it’s impossible without a written record,” said one source.

The garda who spoke to Mr Shatter has not been formally spoken to and senior sources said she most likely will not be spoken to until her period of leave expires.

“She’s done nothing wrong and she’s not under any investigation or anything like that,” said one source.

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