Politics

Thursday 24 July 2014

Data breach has been dealt with, claims Alan Shatter

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Published 05/05/2014|02:30

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Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan pictured before   Det Gda Adrian Donohoe funeral mass  at St Joseph's Church in Dundalk yesterday.
Pic Frank Mc Grath
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

ALAN Shatter has played down his blatant leak of sensitive information about Independent TD Mick Wallace – despite the data protection watchdog finding that he broke the law.

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The Justice Minister last night claimed his actions were "dealt with fully" in the course of a Dail debate, during which he apologised to Mr Wallace for what he described as a "mistake".

Mr Shatter was responding to revelations in the Sunday Independent that his leaking of information about Mr Wallace was in breach of data protection laws.

In his draft findings, Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes ruled that Mr Shatter broke the law by revealing on RTE's 'Prime Time' last May that Mr Wallace had been cautioned by gardai for using his phone while driving.

Mr Shatter later apologised to his Dail colleague for leaking the information during the broadcast. He said that he received the information during a briefing with former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

However, following the broadcast Mr Wallace lodged a formal complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner who has ruled against Mr Shatter.

The draft finding, revealed in the Sunday Independent, will open Mr Shatter up to being sued by Mr Wallace. But more significantly, the finding will be used by the opposition in their repeated calls for the Justice Minister to resign.

DISTURBING

Although the findings are only in draft form, it's expected that the final version will be largely unchanged. But last night Mr Shatter hit out at the "leaking" of the details.

"In the circumstances, it is deeply disturbing that attempts are apparently being made to undermine the integrity of the investigation by the leaking of inaccurate information about an ongoing process," he said in a statement to this newspaper.

"In particular, such leaks would themselves clearly have serious data protection implications."

Mr Shatter added that the investigation process by Mr Hawkes's office is ongoing and that no such decision that he breached data protection laws has been made.

Incredibly, Mr Shatter last night played down his own leaking of information about Mr Wallace and said that the Standards in Public Office Commission had found there were no grounds for an investigation.

"In any case, Minister Shatter's remarks on 'Prime Time' were dealt with fully in the Dail last May in two debates. The minister explained why he made the remarks as he thought they were relevant to the points which Deputy Wallace had been making publicly. But he had no hesitation in acknowledging it was a mistake to make them and apologised fully to Deputy Wallace," a spokesperson for Mr Shatter said.

Mr Wallace did not respond to a request for comment last night.

Irish Independent

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