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Tuesday 25 October 2016

Prominent Fianna Fail figure at centre of drink-driving incident

Jim Cusack and Maeve Sheehan

Published 04/10/2015 | 02:30

It was reported yesterday that a blood sample taken at University College Limerick showed the party figure's blood contained three times the legal alcohol limit
It was reported yesterday that a blood sample taken at University College Limerick showed the party figure's blood contained three times the legal alcohol limit

A prominent Fianna Fail figure is at the centre of an internal garda inquiry into the apparent mislaying of a drink-driving file concerning an incident in which a car overturned in Limerick last December.

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It was reported yesterday that a blood sample taken at University College Limerick showed the party figure's blood contained three times the legal alcohol limit.

The Sunday Independent attempted to contact the politician - who is not a member of the Oireachtas by voicemail and text but he failed to reply.

The party's justice spokesman and TD for Limerick, Niall Collins - who is not involved in any way in the alleged incident - also failed to respond to a voice message and text.

The Fianna Fail press office also failed to respond.

Garda sources indicated last night that the failure to summons the Fianna Fail figure was more likely linked to negligence or oversight rather than any improper motive

One senior source told the Sunday Independent yesterday that the Fianna Fail figure was stopped and breathalysed by a garda around Christmas time and found to be over the limit. A summons should have been issued within six months, but the garda never processed it.

Towards the end of the six months, the Fianna Fail figure called to his local garda station to ask if he was going to be summonsed, according to the source, as the individual was about to take up a new post and simply wanted to know what lay ahead.

The garda source said the query was referred to garda management who established that a summons should have been issued in the case but the six month window had elapsed.

An internal disciplinary inquiry was launched over the summer by the local chief superintendent into the garda for alleged failure to process the summons, according to the source. That inquiry is continuing.

The garda press office has declined to comment on the internal disciplinary inquiry.

In a report on the affair yesterday, the Irish Times stated that internal disciplinary proceedings are under way over what appears to have been a failure to pursue charges in relation to the incident in which a car overturned on the outskirts of Limerick last December 11.

It was said that no other vehicle was involved in the incident and that the male driver had to be helped from his car by gardai and the fire brigade.

It was also said that the politician claimed he had swerved to avoid another vehicle that had driven away from the scene.

The report said the man was treated in hospital and a blood sample was taken and forwarded to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.

The newspaper quoted details from the report saying the sample "had registered 175mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood", which is roughly three times over the legal limit.

In the normal course of events, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety sends a copy of the certificate by registered mail to both the gardai and the motorist concerned. The gardai should, normally, institute a drink-driving prosecution.

However, the Irish Times reported that "the man faced no further action despite the result of his blood test" and that there is "no record" of any summons.

Under the statute of limitations, applications for summonses for offences including drink-driving must be made within six months. If this has not happened, the driver cannot face prosecution.

The failure to pursue a prosecution in this case is now said to be the subject of an internal disciplinary inquiry ordered by Garda Headquarters.

Garda sources said yesterday that it is not uncommon for mistakes to be made in processing drink-driving cases involving blood samples taken from motorists where test results are returned from the bureau, particularly if the certificate arrives in a busy station at a time when the gardai concerned are off-duty or otherwise on leave.

The details of the garda's handling of the case will be examined by a senior garda from a division outside Limerick. Although the matter is said to be confined within "internal disciplinary" procedures, if it is found that there has been any deliberate interference with the handling of evidence - in this case the blood certificate - this could lead to much more serious action.

It was pointed out yesterday that the affair arises in the aftermath of the controversy within the force over the wrongful quashing of penalty points and fines, the affair that contributed to the 'resignation' of the last Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The Fianna Fail figure at the centre of the affair in Limerick is well-known in his local area but not so nationally.

Sunday Independent

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