Finian McGrath says he was ‘thrown under the bus’ over policing remarks

Minister of State apologised to Garda Commissioner and told him: ‘I’m the bold minister who got into trouble there recently’

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath was in hot water for his comment about “political policing”.

Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath was in hot water for his comment about “political policing”.

 

Minister of State Finian McGrath has said he was “thrown under the bus” by a Government colleague following his controversial remarks about “political policing” last month.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper in March, Mr McGrath accused gardaí of carrying out “over-the-top” drink-driving checks because they oppose new road safety laws. He said there was an “agenda” to damage the Government among gardaí and that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris should “de-politicise” the force.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan called the comments “bewildering and bizarre”. At first Mr McGrath stood over the comments but hours later apologised and withdrew them following criticism and calls for his resignation.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr McGrath said he felt under pressure to walk away from the Government over the controversy.

“I was under pressure,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. I realised the seriousness of what happened - the consequences of it. I had to put the fire out very, very quickly and hence I withdrew the remarks and apologised.

“I thought the reaction afterwards by the way was a bit over the top, but that’s just my personal view. The reactions from all sections of the political system were a bit over the top.”

Mr McGrath, speaking to Brendan O’Connor on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1, agreed he felt “ganged up on” following comments by Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan.

‘Bold minister’

Mr O’Donovan had said at the time it was “absolutely unbelievable that a Cabinet minister should suggest that the guards are politicised”.

“To say the guards are politicising their role I find absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “They are far from politicised. Since the foundation of this State, one thing we have always continued to have is an independent police force.”

Mr McGrath said he felt Mr Flanagan’s intervention was appropriate given he is Minister for Justice with oversight of the Garda, but was more critical of Mr O’Donovan’s remarks.

“I understand fully that Charlie’s portfolio is justice and the guards and he takes responsibility, but when other ministers jump in and throw me under the bus, I didn’t like that at all actually,” he said.

“Charlie was doing his job as Minister for Justice, but there was no need for the other minister to come in and do what he did.

“I was very impressed with Richard Bruton, Simon Coveney, and the Taoiseach himself for his great support. People know we’re in a partnership government. I’m an independent. People make mistakes.”

Mr McGrath also said he offered a personal apology to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris over the past week.

“On a lighter note, I was at the gig the other night for Nancy Pelosi and I had a great chat with Drew Harris, the commissioner,” he said. “I had a one-on-one with him. He shook my hand and I apologised again personally to the commissioner.

“He didn’t say anything to me. He shook my hand and I jokingly said ‘I’m the bold minister who got into trouble there recently.’ He just smiled and said we all make mistakes in life. He was very generous and very kind.”