Wallace accuses Shatter of trying to discredit him

Minister for Justice revealed Wexford TD escaped penalty points at discretion of garda

Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace: ’unaware’ of incident referred to by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Independent Wexford TD Mick Wallace: ’unaware’ of incident referred to by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Independent TD Mick Wallace has alleged Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is seeking to ‘discredit’ him by revealing he escaped penalty points for using a mobile phone while driving.

Last night, Mr Shatter, who has been accused of abusing Garda information for political purposes, declined to say where he got his information, which he revealed on RTE television on Thursday night.

Mr Wallace has said he was unaware of the incident.

Mr Shatter last night 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 the public needed to know.

In a statement today, Mr Wallace claimed the Minister was trying to “deflect attention from the grave issues of Garda malpractice” that have arisen in relation to the cancellation of penalty points.

“In an attempt to discredit my criticism of both the current ‘who you know’ ad hoc system of Fixed Charge Notice cancellation and the Minister’s approach to the investigation of the issues raised, Minister Shatter’s statement deliberately misrepresents my position, and again refers to an alleged incident of which I am unaware,” he said.

“The Minister’s selective approach to the release of personal data is a matter for consideration by the Standards in Public Office Commission and the Data Protection Commissioner,” he said. “The Minister was hugely concerned with the protection of the reputation of celebrities and judges, but appears to be less concerned about the release of data when it serves him a political purpose.”

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.

Mr Wallace said today he would hold a joint press conference with fellow Independent TDs Clare Daly, Joan Collins and Luke Ming Flanagan next week.

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.

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.

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.

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”.