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Here's what happened when Mick Wallace and Ming complained about Alan Shatter

SIPO received complaints about the former justice minister from the two outspoken politicians.

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who is now an MEP, and Mick Wallace outside Leinster House in January.
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who is now an MEP, and Mick Wallace outside Leinster House in January.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

DURING HIS CONTROVERSIAL three years as justice minister Alan Shatter frequently clashed with independent deputies Mick Wallace and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan in the Dáil chamber and elsewhere.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the two TDs made formal complaints about Shatter to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

The details of the complaints and the outcome of them are contained in SIPO’s annual report for 2013 which was published today.

In Wallace’s case he was one of three to complain about the manner in which Shatter disclosed details of an alleged incident involving the indepedent TD and members of the gardaí.

This was the subject of much controversy in May of last year when, in the course of Prime Time debate on penalty points, Shatter said that the Wexford deputy had benefited from garda discretion and avoided having points put on his driving licence.

shatter-vs-wallace (1) Source: Prime Time/RTÉ Player

Wallace complained about the disclosure of that information to SIPO and the Data Protection Commissioner. The DPC subsequently found Shatter broke the law though the Fine Gael backbencher is now challenging the decision in the courts.

Wallace’s complaint to SIPO, one of three about the Prime Time disclosure, alleged that Shatter had improperly disclosed personal information about him that had constituted a “specified act” which was “inconsistent with the proper performance by the specified person of the functions of the office” under the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) Act 2001.

SIPO appointed an inquiry officer to conduct a preliminary investigation. The officer gathered relevant evidence and statements and then provided these to Shatter before the now former minister made his own statement. The officer then presented their findings to the Commission.

Based on these findings SIPO decided that what Shatter did was was not a “specified act” because it considered that the matter was not deemed by it to be of “significant public importance” under the SIPO Act.

The Act states that a matter is only of “significant public importance” if the Commission deems that the benefit “might have been or be expected to be or to become not less than £10,000.” (i.e. €12,697)”

Therefore SIPO decided not to carry out any further investigation.

Decriminalising cannabis Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

In the case of Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, the now former Roscommon-South Leitrim TD made a complaint to SIPO in the summer of 2013  about “confidential information” Shatter had allegedly disclosed about him.

Flanagan first raised the alleged disclosure in May 2013 - saying he would complain to the DPC – but declined to say what the information released about him was.

He said at the time: “He [Shatter] released information about me that he shouldn’t and you’ll find out about that as it it develops.”

But Flanagan never did say what information had been released about him and attempts to reach the newly-elected Midlands North West MEP were unsuccessful at the time if publication.

Without appointing an inquiry officer – as it did in the case of Wallace’s complaint – SIPO decided that the”specified act” by Shatter was not one of “significant public importance” under the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995.

Section 23 of this Act states that there shall be no investigation unless “there is sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case in relation to the alleged specified act concerned”.

SIPO said it informed the complainants in both cases and the Minister of its decision.

More: Why did the political ethics watchdog get 427 complaints in 2012, but just 29 last year?

Read: Did Alan Shatter really cheat death at Dublin Airport?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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