PAC seeking legal advice on leaked Garda files

Garda Commissioner and Data Protection Commissioner have raised concern over data

The Public Accounts Committee has sought legal advice on how it should handle a series of Garda files forwarded to its chairman John McGuinness from a whistleblower.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has written to Mr McGuinness seeking the return of the files, which relate to money lost due to the abuse of the penalty points system.

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has also contacted Mr McGuinness about the matter, saying the leak of information may represent a crime and that he supported Mr Callinan's position on returning the files.

Mr Callinan is due to appear before the committee on January 23rd.


Mr McGuinness today said the files had not been opened and were forwarded to the parliamentary legal adviser as there was concern there may be data protection issues if they had been removed from the Garda’s Pulse system.

He said the committee’s only interest in the files was that they were said to show system failures and a loss of revenue to the State.

Independent TD Shane Ross said the contents of the files should not be held back if the material was a matter of public interest.

Mr McGuinness said he was trying to achieve a balance and work within the constraints of data protection law.

The committee may have privilege to view the files but its clerk, Ted McEnery, has drafted a reply to Mr Callinan and Mr Hawkes saying it is awaiting legal advice.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy has compiled a report on a previous leak of material related to penalty points which Mr McGuinness said the material may be relevant to as it could go above and beyond what is contained in the report.

Mr McCarthy said his office had no power to investigate illegality or wrongdoing and that policy said he should only take material required for identifying systemic financial control issues.

He said it was “a classic pass the parcel” situation.

Mr McGuinness said he would request legal advice as to whether or not the files could be passed on to Mr McCarthy’s office with a view to further adding to his report on the penalty points system.

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times