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FG ministers back Shatter in penalty points comments row

Both Richard Bruton and Brian Hayes say Shatter’s comments added context to complaints about the penalty points inquiry.

Alan Shatter alleged that Mick Wallace had benefitted from Garda discretion by avoiding penalty points when he was caught using a phone while driving.
Alan Shatter alleged that Mick Wallace had benefitted from Garda discretion by avoiding penalty points when he was caught using a phone while driving.
Image: RTÉ Player

TWO FINE GAEL ministers have come out in support of the justice minister, Alan Shatter, after opposition TDs continued to criticise his allegations about independent TD Mick Wallace and an alleged motoring offence.

Shatter attracted criticism for his comments on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Thursday night, when he alleged that Wallace had benefited from Garda discretion in an incident last year when he was caught using a mobile phone while driving.

The Garda involved had decided not to issue a fixed charge notice against Wallace, Shatter claimed, saying that Wallace had benefited from the same Garda discretion that he was criticising in calling for an independent inquiry into alleged abuse of the discretion system.

Wallace said he was unaware of the incident, details of which were not already in the public domain, leading to suggestions that the minister had abused his power by using his ministerial privilege to gain information about political opponents which he could then use against them.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Niall Collins yesterday called for Shatter’s resignation – while former defence minister Willie O’Dea today described Shatter’s behaviour as “vindictive” and “mean”.

“A lot of sensitive information of individuals come into their possession, by virtue of their job,” O’Dea said, referring to members of the cabinet.

“What the Minister for Justice in this instance seems to have done [...] is deliberately, and quite calculatedly, used this information to do down a political opponent,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics. “I don’t think that’s acceptable for a minister.”

United Left TD Clare Daly, meanwhile, said she was “shellshocked” that Shatter might use sensitive information and use it to make a political argument.

“Where did Minister Shatter get this information?” Daly asked on RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme.

Did he seek it? Was he given it? How much information does he have on the rest of us? [...] This is like Orwell’s Big Brother. How many files does he have on other TDs?

Bruton: Shatter’s comments in ‘public interest’

On the same programmes, however, two Fine Gael ministers expressed support for Shatter.

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“There’s no doubt [that] there is some interest in knowing that those who are accusing the Gardaí of widespread corruption were themselves beneficiaries of a system which they said was utterly corrupt,” Bruton said on The Week in Politics.

“That is a public interest,” the jobs minister insisted.

On This Week, junior finance minister Brian Hayes said Shatter’s commends had exposed “rank hypocrisy”, by showing how some who had expressed anger at Garda discretion had themselves benefited from it.

“That context was that people were claiming there should be no discretion, when at the same time… one of the deputies used that discretion,” he said.

We’re not going to be lectured, quite frankly, by people who don’t pay their taxes, who owe a huge liability to the Irish state. There’s a context to all of this and people need to know that.

Read: Shatter called on to resign over Wallace penalty points row

More: Shatter rubbishes Wallace and upholds view he had penalty points quashed

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Gavan Reilly

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