Sunday 23 November 2014

TDs and senators will be told not to interfere in cases

Niall O'Connor and Ralph Riegel

Published 21/06/2014 | 02:30

Niall Collins

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin is to issue a diktat to his TDs and senators to avoid interfering in ongoing legal cases on foot of the Niall Collins affair.

Mr Collins's credibility has been tarnished after it emerged he pleaded leniency on behalf of a drug dealer involved in a criminal trial in Limerick.

The TD was criticised by the Taoiseach, government ministers and his party colleagues for lobbying a judge on behalf of father-of-four Hugo Porter.

A handwritten letter produced in Limerick Circuit Court on behalf of Mr Collins asked Judge Carroll Moran not to jail Mr Porter "on compassionate grounds".

Mr Collins yesterday broke his silence on the affair and admitted that he had made a "mistake" by interfering in the criminal case.

But he insisted he was fit to remain on as the party's justice spokesperson and said he was motivated to write the letter by the fact that Mr Porter was a widower with four children.

"There was no back door, there was no inappropriate telephone conversation, I didn't call to a judge's front door," he told RTE's Sean O'Rourke. "People have to judge me as the party's spokesperson, I've always sought to be fair, reasonable, I've approached the job with the right intentions," he said, adding: "I'm sorry it worked out the way it did."

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he would now produce guidelines for his TDs and senators to avoid getting involved in legal cases.

Mistake

But he defended the decision not to remove Mr Collins as justice spokesperson, saying he did not believe the TD was "impaired" to make comments on legal cases in the future.

"People make mistakes. Niall has accepted he made a mistake. He was motivated by compassion clearly for the children involved and I have accepted his explanation," Mr Martin said.

"We are talking about exceptionally tragic circumstances where there was the prospect of children being left parentless. This was an exceptional case," he added.

Mr Martin hit out at the Taoiseach's criticism of Mr Collins, accusing Enda Kenny of playing politics. "I think the Taoiseach should recognise that there are people in his own Government who have been involved in their own incidents. Kathleen Lynch, for example, and she has come through this and has now been appointed a government minister."

Mr Martin was referring to a case in 2008 in which Ms Lynch, the junior health minister, wrote to a judge presiding over a rape case. She later expressed her regret at her involvement.

Mr Martin said he held a meeting with Mr Collins on Thursday morning but that he did not seek his resignation.

Mr Martin said he supported the devising of a new cross-party code stating that politicians should not intervene in judicial matters.

But Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he did not feel legislation would be necessary.

"I think at this stage TDs should know what is appropriate and what isn't. Niall Collins is a (FF) spokesperson for justice so he should know better in that sense," he added.

Mr Porter and another criminal, Alan Lysaght (39), both from Castleconnell, Co Limerick, admitted having €17,500 worth of cannabis for sale or supply on June 24, 2011.

Lysaght was jailed for three years with the final year suspended but Mr Porter's sentencing was adjourned after a letter from Mr Collins was produced to the court.

Irish Independent

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