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Thursday 23 February 2017

Penalty points row TD reported to Dail watchdog

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Prominent anti-household-charge campaigner Joan Collins of the United Left Alliance
Prominent anti-household-charge campaigner Joan Collins of the United Left Alliance

THE TD who named a rugby hero and a journalist in the penalty-points row is being reported to a Leinster House watchdog.

Independent TD Joan Collins was accused of abusing Dail privilege by naming Ireland rugby star Ronan O'Gara and crime writer Paul Williams in the Dail for having penalty points cancelled by the gardai.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said he wrote to the group of Independent TDs raising the issue warning them not to name individuals.

He said he was now referring Ms Collins to the Dail committee on procedure and privileges.

"In view of these events, and the prior notice given to the deputies, I regard Deputy Collins' references as a serious breach of privilege and I'm referring the matter to the Committee of Procedure and Privileges."

A garda investigation continues into claims by a garda sergeant that thousands of penalty points for road-traffic offences had been cancelled on appeal to a garda superintendent.

Ms Collins named the Munster out-half O'Gara and Mr Williams as being among the motorists who had penalty points written off.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter revealed 197 allegations of penalty points being struck out were being investigated.

Speeding

The allegations relate to the cancellation of fixed-charge notices, which are issued as an alternative to prosecution and usually when a driver is found to be speeding.

It allows the motorist to pay a fine and incur penalty points.

Mr Shatter said members of the gardai ranking inspector or higher have the authority to cancel notices – usually when there would not be enough evidence to prosecute or when prosecution would be unfair or disproportionate.

He said incidents involving emergency vehicles, or where there was a medical certificate relating to wearing seatbelts, or when a sick child was being driven to hospital were among those when exemptions could be applied.

Garda commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed an assistant commissioner to examine the accusations, who has compiled an interim report.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein TD Padraig MacLochlainn was suspended from the Dail for accusing the Ceann Comhairle of "double standards and hypocrisy" over the accusations directed at Gerry Adams by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday.

Mr Kenny has challenged Mr Adams to "tell the truth" about the death of Jean McConville and also appeared to link Sinn Fein to the Northern Bank robbery.

Mr MacLochlainn refused to leave the Dail and the sitting was suspended repeatedly over the course of an hour until he walked out after consulting with party colleagues.

Irish Independent

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