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Friday 28 April 2017

Garda breath tests and penalty points revelations 'not acceptable' - Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny signs a declaration during an EU summit meeting at the Orazi and Curiazi Hall in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny signs a declaration during an EU summit meeting at the Orazi and Curiazi Hall in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
From left, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and TaoiseachEnda Kenny during arrivals for an EU summit at the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is welcomed by Prefect of the Pontifical household Georg Gänswein as he arrives at the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
(from L to R) Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, European Council President Donald Tusk, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni pose for a picture outside the city hall "Campidoglio" (Capitoline Hill) as EU leaders arrive for a meeting on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, in Rome, Italy March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

Sarah Collins and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the roadside breath tests and penalty points revelations are "not acceptable".

The Taoiseach was responding to the news this week that more than 14,500 people who were prosecuted for road traffic offences are to have their convictions quashed because of garda error.

Furthermore, the number of drink-driving tests carried out between 2011 and 2016 was exaggerated by over 937,000.

The Taoiseach also said it is "not a question" of the Government "interfering" with garda matters.

From left, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and TaoiseachEnda Kenny during arrivals for an EU summit at the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
From left, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, European Council President Donald Tusk, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and TaoiseachEnda Kenny during arrivals for an EU summit at the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Speaking in Rome where he is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Mr Kenny said: "Well, first of all it’s not for government to interfere in the running of the Gardaí, it’s an internal matter.

"But the minister has already set out our very strong view about this, and has expressed that very strong view to the Garda Commissioner.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is welcomed by Prefect of the Pontifical household Georg Gänswein as he arrives at the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is welcomed by Prefect of the Pontifical household Georg Gänswein as he arrives at the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

"Clearly, the government have made changes here, to the strengthening of GSOC, the strengthening of the Garda Inspectorate and the setting in place of the independent Garda Authority, which I believe will change the culture of the Gardaí over the next number of years."

He continued; "And we would like the Commissioner to be very clear in her statement that she makes later this evening about this.

(from L to R) Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, European Council President Donald Tusk, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni pose for a picture outside the city hall
(from L to R) Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, European Council President Donald Tusk, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni pose for a picture outside the city hall "Campidoglio" (Capitoline Hill) as EU leaders arrive for a meeting on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, in Rome, Italy March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

"It’s not acceptable."

The Taoiseach said he still have confidence in Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan and said he is looking forward to her statement this afternoon.

"I’ve expressed confidence in the Garda Commissioner on quite a number of occasions," he said.

"I’d like to see her statement this afternoon. I continue to have confidence in her.

"It’s not a question of government interfering with the running of the Gardaí.

"That’s why we’ve made the very extensive reforms for the Garda and the running of the Garda that are now in place and that will have, I think, a very deep effect over the next number of years."

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald last night expressed "very serious concerns" about the two blunders but also indicated that she retains confidence in the Commissioner.

"The scale of the issues which were the substance of a press conference from An Garda Síochána is very concerning," Ms Fitzgerald said.

She noted Garda first highlighted the penalty point issue in June last year by writing to the Department of Justice to indicate it was conducting a nationwide audit. As a result of this audit a further report was provided to the department on March 14, 2017, and the final figures were presented by An Garda Síochána at its press conference yesterday.

Fianna Fáil is set to ramp up the pressure on Ms O'Sullivan, with justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan telling the Irish Independent the public need "a full explanation in respect of both issues".

He criticised Garda management for holding a press conference to reveal basic details on the scandals but then retreating without providing a full explanation. Ms O'Sullivan chose not to attend the media briefing, which coincided with one of the busiest news days of the year following the death of Martin McGuinness and the terrorist attack in London.

Asked how much time Ms O'Sullivan should be given to provide answers to the outstanding questions, Mr Callaghan said: "I would say they should have answers within a week. If an adequate explanation isn't provided, then we won't have confidence in the Garda Commissioner."

Ms O'Sullivan is already under pressure from other political parties to step aside while the tribunal into the treatment of whistleblower Maurice McCabe hears evidence.

However, a spokesperson for the Commissioner said there was nothing further to add to what is in the public domain "at this stage".

Gardaí revealed on Thursday that 14,700 people were wrongly brought to court without a fixed-charge notice being issued first. They will have their penalty points quashed and fines repaid. The State will have to cover the cost of the process, potentially running into millions.

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