Shatter defends disclosing Wallace Garda information

Wexford TD seen by a garda using mobile phone while driving

 Mick Wallace:  The TD yesterday insisted he was “unaware” of the incident. Photograph: David Sleator

Mick Wallace: The TD yesterday insisted he was “unaware” of the incident. Photograph: David Sleator


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has defended stating publicly that Independent TD Mick Wallace escaped penalty points despite accusations that he abused Garda information for political purposes.

However, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said last night that Mr Shatter’s comments suggested politics and policing were too close and would undermine the Garda.

“It just reinforces the idea that the Government is always involved in the management of policing,” said AGSI general secretary, John Redmond.

And associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin Eoin O’Dell said: “My concern is if there is no formal way that he could have this information then this really is a leak for political purposes. That’s not the sort of thing that’s appropriate in a democracy. I see a grave privacy concern here.”

Garda sources told The Irish Times the incident referred to by Mr Shatter occurred in May 2012 when Mr Wallace was driving in Dublin’s north inner city.

Mobile phone
The Wexford TD was seen using his mobile phone while driving. A garda exercised his discretion to allow Mr Wallace to continue driving after a verbal warning. Mr Wallace yesterday insisted he was “unaware” of the incident Mr Shatter referred to and said he was making a complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission and calling for an investigation into any possible breach of data protection legislation.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins questioned Mr Shatter’s judgement in making the information public. Mr Shatter had “essentially betrayed the confidence of the gardaí and used private, privileged information to score a political point against an opponent”, Mr Collins said.

Last night, Mr Shatter, who declined to say where he got his information, accused Mr Wallace of hypocrisy saying the TD had concealed “the fact that Garda discretion had been exercised in relation to himself”. He said it was a matter of public importance that viewers of RTÉ’s Prime Time needed to know.

Professor of law at the University of Limerick Dermot Walsh commented last night that if Mr Shatter got his information from a garda, exercising his status as Minister for Justice, it was “an improper exercise of his office”.