Wallace to lodge complaint as Shatter controversy escalates

Minister may face Dáil motion of no confidence and ethics probe over remarks that Wexford TD escaped getting penalty points

Independent TD Mick Wallace is to lodge a complaint with the Standards in Public Office Commission today over Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s controversial penalty point remarks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted Mr Shatter has his "100 per cent support" for disclosing confidential Garda information that Mr Wallace was warned over using his mobile phone while driving last year.

As the furore over the appropriateness of Mr Shatter’s use of classified information concerning the Wexford TD escalated over the weekend, Fianna Fáil said yesterday it would consider tabling a motion of no confidence in him at its parliamentary party meeting tomorrow.

Party's justice spokesman Niall Collins has called on the Minister to resign, citing the inappropriate use of Garda information to denigrate his opponent politically. A spokeswoman for Mr Shatter said last night he would be commenting on the issue today .
Mr Wallace confirmed he would lodge a complaint with the Standards in Public Office Commission while Independent Deputy Clare Daly said Mr Shatter's actions were "galling".


However, Fine Gael Ministers, including the Taoiseach, have defended Mr Shatter. They have alleged there was an inconsistency and hypocrisy on Mr Wallace’s part in campaigning against penalty point cancellations without saying he was a beneficiary.

On RTÉ's Prime Time , Mr Shatter revealed Mr Wallace had been stopped by gardaí in May 2012 for using a mobile phone while driving but that he had been given a warning rather than a fixed notice and penalty points.

Speaking in Boston, Mr Kenny said the Minister had pointed out that Mr Wallace was "adamant" that gardaí should show no discretion when awarding penalty points for motoring offence when the Deputy himself was "the recipient of discretion before a fixed penalty point notice was actually issued".

On Mr Shatter’s use of the personal information relating to Mr Wallace, Mr Kenny said: “I want to make it clear that the Minister for Justice is not in a position of collecting files on any individual or any member of the House or anybody else.” The Taoiseach said that as a general background to the penalty points discussion “it was brought to his [Mr Shatter’s] attention” that discretion had been applied on fixed penalty points and that was “relevant information to the general discussion here”.

“People cannot have it both ways. You cannot be saying that there should be no discretion used and at the same time avail of discretion,” he said.

The Labour Party, at Government level, has refused to be drawn. There have been no communications between the parties at the highest level over the matter and its official comment has been the same as that used by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton in several interviews yesterday.

“The Minister, I understand, is subject to a number of questions in the Dáil on the issue and I understand he will be answering those, I am sure, in due course,” she said

However, a number of the party's TDs have expressed disquiet – publicly and privately – over Mr Shatter's remarks. Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys said he was outraged about the Minister's intervention. Similarly Dublin Mid West TD Joanna Tuffy said the use of the information was inappropriate, and Louth TD Gerald Nash called for clarification.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times