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Saturday 20 September 2014

'Don't you know who I am?' What Shatter said to garda

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor and Ian Mallon

Published 28/05/2013 | 08:00

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Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

A GARDA report filed on the incident in which Alan Shatter was stopped at a drink-drive checkpoint has gone missing, the Irish Independent has learnt.

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An informed source has revealed the garda who stopped Mr Shatter felt he was not fully co-operative.

She was also asked by the then Fine Gael frontbench spokesman: "Don't you know who I am?"

Mr Shatter faces a motion of no confidence in the Dail this evening.

New evidence has emerged that apparently shows Mr Shatter, contrary to his claim, did not say he was asthmatic and was therefore unable to complete the breath test.

Information made available to the Irish Independent about the incident about five years ago appears to contradict Mr Shatter's version of events.

Informed sources familiar with the case say that the now Justice Minister:

* Said nothing about being asthmatic, preventing him completing the test.

* Intimated to the garda that it was unconstitutional to stop him as he was coming from the Dail and said: "Check your law book."

* Appeared not to make a sufficient effort to complete the breath test.

* Drove off without being waved on by the officer.

At no point did Mr Shatter's driving or behaviour lead the gardai to believe that he had been drinking.

He merely drove into a mandatory checkpoint, operated by four gardai on Pembroke Street in Dublin city centre, near Leinster House.

Apart from a brief statement, Mr Shatter has refused to respond to questions on the incident put to him by this newspaper last night.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath raised questions in the Dail about Mr Shatter's conduct in the breath test as to:

* Whether his behaviour and reaction to this request was appropriate and cordial.

* Whether he attempted to use the privilege of travelling to and from the Dail as a means of avoiding giving a breath test.

Significantly, it is now claimed Mr Shatter did not tell the officer that he suffered from asthma.

From the account of the incident provided to this newspaper, Mr Shatter was stopped as part of a Mandatory Alcohol Test Checkpoint, known as MATCH.

Mr Shatter was waved into the young garda's spot where it was explained he was being stopped as part of a random check.

It is claimed the then-frontbench spokesman on children said: "Don't you know who I am ... "

The garda did not know him, to which he said: "I am Alan Shatter," and explained that he was coming from the Dail.

The officer said words to the effect: "Seeing as you're here now, you may as well give a breath sample."

The garda then explained how the Fine Gael TD should proceed to give a successful sample.

Mr Shatter took the breathalyser bag and blew a quick puff, which was not sufficient to inflate the device.

The garda asked him to do it again.

He is said to have again provided a quick puff, which was equally insufficient to inflate the device.

The garda told him that he hadn't done it properly and Mr Shatter is alleged to have replied: "Check your law book, it's in the Constitution, you cannot stop me, I am going."

It has also emerged another key witness to the incident may be able to shed further light on events on the night in question.

Gardai believe Mr Shatter was travelling with a passenger.

FAILED

This witness would be key to the version of events that took place.

The female garda prepared a report soon after the checkpoint was lifted and sent it to her superiors.

But the report cannot now be accounted for and is thought to be missing.

Last week, in his only statement on the incident, Mr Shatter said he failed to fully complete the breath test because he was asthmatic.

"I explained this to the garda," he said.

Last night, the Irish Independent offered Mr Shatter an opportunity to clarify his statement and comment further but he declined.

"The minister has nothing to add to what he said last Thursday," his spokesperson said.

In a statement issued this morning the Minister said:

“Following on from the issue raised in the Dáil last week by Deputy Mattie McGrath, the Secretary General of the Department of

Justice and Equality asked the Garda Commissioner to ascertain whether there was a garda report on the matter.

“The Commissioner has confirmed that he caused enquiries to be made by local Garda management as to whether or not a report of the incident was made at the time. 

“He is informed that no such report was generated by the Garda member involved and a further local search of the garda computer

system has failed to locate any such report.”

This morning Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said the opposition were “dragging the bottom of the barrel” on the issue.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, he said: “Somebody being stopped at a checkpoint is something that many people will be very familiar with. He has issued two statements, one of which explained what happened when he was stopped and the second now today that he has checked with the garda commissioner and there isn’t a garda report on it.

“I think that this issue has gone on for a very long period of time. Frankly I think Fianna Fail are dragging the bottom of the barrel now for an issue to have a private members motion on and a motion of confidence on by going ahead with this.

“There are a lot more important issues in this country that need discussion in the Dail than whether Alan Shatter was stopped at a checkpoint or not.”

On his way into Government buildings this morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he has full confidence in the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and said the government will defend the Minister’s record very strongly.

“The Government will defend Minister Shatter’s reform programme very strongly indeed. The Garda Commission has confirmed there was no record made of the mandatory checkpoint,” he said.

He reiterated Minister Shatter’s comments this morning saying that the garda commissioner had confirmed there was no record of a mandatory checkpoint.

Fianna Fail Justice spokesman Niall Collins rejected the suggestion that his party are using the incident as political opportunism

“We are reflecting the loss of confidence out there in communities with this minister,” he said on RTE’s Morning Ireland today

“It has reached a tipping point for us with a highly inappropriate use of confidential information. You have to question the minister’s judgement and arising from this we put down this motion and we put down this motion on foot of that series of events, ever before the breathalyser incident came into the public domain”.

Irish Independent

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