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Varadkar: We need another investigation into the penalty points controversy

“In a lot of cases they were explaining away penalty point terminations that to the reasonable person seemed a little bit unusual,” Leo Varadkar has said of the garda report into the cancellation of penalty points.

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

TRANSPORT MINISTER LEO Varadkar has said that another investigation into the penalty points controversy is a “good suggestion” and he believes there is a “sense among the public” that garda discretion is not applied equally.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, the Minister said he was coming at the issue from “from a road safety point of view” and said that he and the Road Safety Authority had been asked to study the recent garda report into the matter and make suggestions to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

“Their view is that this requires a further investigation,” he said of the Road Safety Authority (RSA). “They’re suggesting that the Garda Ombudsman Commission should investigate at this stage. I think they’re probably right.”

An investigation overseen by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney found no evidence of corruption in the cancellation of fixed charge notices but disciplinary proceedings against three gardai have begun.

A garda whistleblower, who Varadkar confirmed he had met, questioned the termination of more than 50,000 points over a four year period.  But O’Mahoney’s internal review reported 72 incidents which were not “strictly within the correct administrative procedures”.

Philip Ryan writes in the Irish Independent this morning that the RSA is “unhappy” with the findings of the report and wants an independent investigation into the matter.

Varadkar insisted that the gardaí have taken the matter “seriously” and have proposed to tighten up the penalty points system but he raised issues with certain cases in the appendixes of the garda report.

“Reading through the report, particularly reading the appendixes and the different cases, I have to say that I got the sense not such much that they had looked at the underbelly of this but that in a lot of cases they were explaining away penalty point terminations that to the reasonable person seemed a little bit unusual,” he said this morning.

Varadkar said it was “very important” that the public has confidence in the penalty points system. He continued:

“The law needs to be enforced and it needs to be enforced in the  same way on everyone and if there is discretion then discretion should apply equally to everyone and there is a sense among the public that maybe is not the case.”

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He said he was proposing legislation to tighten penalty points system later in the year and said it would be very hard to bring in new measures “if people don’t have confidence that the system is working and that it’s fair and that it is being applied equally to everyone.”

Confirming a meeting with one of the whistleblowers, Varadkar said that this meeting with was interesting and useful and that “80 per cent” of the person’s claims were “very credible”.

“I think it’s important that we listen to whistleblowers and that they’re protected,” he added.

Varadkar was speaking in the aftermath of EU transport ministers’ discussions about strengthening the rights of air passengers with proposals for more fuller information for these passengers and compensation after a certain period of delays.

Read: Whistleblower invites Taoiseach to discuss penalty points controversy

Read: ‘Dysfunctional and flawed’: TDs slam penalty points investigation

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Hugh O'Connell

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