Irish Republican News · May 17, 2013
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Garda scandal rumbles on as Minister ‘names and shames’ TD


A row over the cancellation of thousands of motoring offences continues unabated in the 26 Counties, despite the report of an internal Garda police investigation which cleared the force of corruption.

Although the report called for three members of the Gardai to be disciplined, it crucially failed to interview the two Garda ‘whistle-blowers’ who revealed the practice. One of the two men has now been forced to quit the force, while the other has said that he is being treated as a pariah by colleagues.

The findings were dismissed as a whitewash by some opposition politicians, and also condemned by one whistle-blower, who has now gone public to condemn corruption within the force.

Judges, television celebrities, sports figures, bankers and politicians were among those who reportedly had their offences cancelled, and some of those whose dangerous driving went unpunished went on to kill and injure other road users. The most controversial allegation was that cash payments, or favours in lieu, may have been quietly exchanged with the officials who made the arrangements.

Although the Garda investigation found no-one had handed over cash in return for the cancellation of ‘penalty points’ -- which increase the cost of motor insurance and can lead to driving licence suspension -- the report failed to alleviate concerns that the police system in the 26 Counties systematically favours the wealthy and well-connected ahead of the young, the poor and the marginalised.

Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on Justice, Padraig Mac Lochlainn called for an independent inquiry into the allegations. He also expressed serious concern about the treatment of the whistle-blowers in the case, which he said might deter others from coming forward with allegations of wrong doing across the public and private sectors.

“Rather than battening down the hatches, Minister Alan Shatter and senior Gardai need to let in the light and allow these very serious allegations of malpractice to be examined independently.

“Police investigating police is not always acceptable. That is why the office of the Garda Ombudsman was established.

“I am also seriously concerned at the isolation and criticism of the whistle-blower in this case. What encouragement has been offered in this debacle to others from coming forward with allegations of wrong doing across the public and private sectors?”

But Shatter was defiant, insisting that members of the Gardai had a right to use “discretion” when applying or cancelling motoring offences.

On Thursday evening, he controversially went on state radio to denounce one of the independent TDs who had raised concerns over the matter, Wexford TD Mick Wallace. He claimed Mr Wallace had benefited from such “discretion” by the Gardai in connection with a past motoring incident, when he was (allegedly) observed driving while using a mobile phone, for which he should have received penalty points. Apparently drawing on information from a Garda file, Shatter suggested the Wexford-based left-wing TD had been let off.

The incident has raised questions as to how and why Mr Shatter obtained the information he presented, and what other potentially embarrassing material the coalition government has accessed or accumulated in regard to opposition TDs.

Fianna Fail justice spokesperson Niall Collins said the Garda information accessed by the Minister was “privileged information” and that the incident raised questions about Shatter’s judgement.

It also raised issues on the security of citizens’ private information, the right to due process and the use of private details for political purposes, Mr Collins said.

“Fianna Fail has expressed growing concern about the behaviour and attitude of Alan Shatter and the effect these are having on the institutions he has responsibility for. His behaviour last evening, where he essentially betrayed the confidence of the gardai and used private, privileged information to score a political point against an opponent further justifies those concerns.”

He called on Alan Shatter to make a statement on the matter at the earliest opportunity.

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© 2013 Irish Republican News