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'You'll get nothing when we're in power,' Fine Gael TD tells garda

Officer tried to prevent 'extremely intoxicated' PJ Sheehan driving away from Leinster House

JODY CORCORAN EXCLUSIVE

Published 19/09/2010 | 05:00

SUPPORTERS: FG leader Enda Kenny, right, told gardai to 'ignore the incident' with PJ Sheehan, TD, left
SUPPORTERS: FG leader Enda Kenny, right, told gardai to 'ignore the incident' with PJ Sheehan, TD, left

A Garda has reported to her superior officer that a drunken Fine Gael TD threatened to damage her career and made physical contact with her after she had prevented him from driving his car from Leinster House, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

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The TD, PJ Sheehan, is said to have told her that she would never be promoted, that "when we get into power you will get nothing" and that she would be "in trouble over this".

Mr Sheehan, 77, a TD for Cork South West, is described in a garda report into the incident to have been "extremely intoxicated" at the time, to the point that he required assistance to "remain upright".

The report states that the Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, was also leaving Leinster House at the time, at approximately 1am on July 8 last -- the day the Oireachtas would break for summer.

When Mr Kenny was spoken to by the garda sergeant in charge that night he is said, in the official report, to have told the garda sargeant to "ignore what Mr Sheehan had said".

In a report, the garda sargeant said: "I take exception to a member of An Garda Siochana under my supervision being treated in such a manner by any person and am shocked that an elected representative should threaten to damage the career of a garda who acted in good faith to ensure the safety of that elected representative."

He said that the garda concerned had acted in a professional manner throughout and was at no stage confrontational or provocative, but had instead attempted to resolve the matter in a discreet matter. "I request that this matter be brought to the attention of the relevant authority. . ."

The Sunday Independent understands that no subsequent garda investigation has been held in relation to the incident. Asked what, if any action would be taken, a garda spokesman yesterday said: "No comment."

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said: "The work and conduct of the gardai in Leinster House has always been exemplary.

"The incident referred to here is entirely a matter for the gardai."

Yesterday, Mr Sheehan admitted that an incident had occurred at Leinster House on the date in question and at the time as detailed in the garda report. He confirmed that the incident related to his ability to drive his car.

He admitted that he had had a "few pints" with his wife and friends, but said that he did not know if he had difficulty remaining upright.

"I can't tell you anything about it. I invite you to be wary. This is an infringement on my personal duties, my personal activity," he said.

Initially he denied that he had "threatened" or had made physical contact with the garda. He denied saying that she would not be promoted; that when Fine Gael was in government she would "get nothing", or saying that she would be "in trouble" after she had prevented him from driving from Leinster House.

However, when the garda report was recounted to him, Mr Sheehan said: "I can't remember what went on. I remember the garda. I can't recollect now. . . I'm not saying that I didn't. . . I was very tired after a hard day in work."

He asked for the reference to Mr Kenny in the report to be read to him again: "There you go," he said, "Enda Kenny says the matter is to be ignored. That is what I would advise you to do, my boy. The matter is null and void now as far as I'm concerned. It's over with. That's it."

Later still he recalled that he had asked the garda concerned for her identification number. When asked why he had done that, he said: "I wanted to know who I was dealing with." When asked why he had wanted to know who he was dealing with, he said: "No, I didn't say that. I didn't ask for her number."

When it was put to him that he had just said he had asked for her identification number, he said: "Ah look here. This matter is completely finished. . . I'm under pressure now."

Mr Sheehan also said that he was the victim of a "witch-hunt to belittle me in Dail Eireann. Somebody must have alerted you to this, somebody who was jealous of me in Dail Eireann."

He also suggested that the media should be concentrating on the "financial condition of the country" and should not be "hassling TDs".

Mr Sheehan, a widely popular TD, is a former auctioneer, shopowner and farmer. He was first elected to the Dail at the 1981 General Election and retained his seat until losing it at the 2002 General Election. He regained his seat in 2007. He is FG deputy agriculture spokesperson with special responsibility for forestry.

The report of the garda sargeant states: "Re: Incident Involving Mr PJ Sheehan, TD, at Merrion Gate, Dail Eireann.

"Regarding the above, I am to report that at approximately 01.00am, I encountered an extremely intoxicated elderly male leaving Dail Eireann on foot via the gate leading to Merrion Street. I now know this man to be Mr PJ Sheehan, TD. I spoke to him on Merrion Street where he informed me that he had been prevented from driving his motor car out of Dail Eireann by a garda on duty inside the grounds of the complex.

"He stated that nothing of this sort had ever happened to him during his 30 years in office. He was highly offended that a garda should interfere with him in this manner. Mr Sheen was clearly intoxicated and required my assistance to remain upright.

"In response to this, I stated that it was my opinion that he was not fit to drive, would pose a serious risk to himself and others had he driven on to the public road and would hence render himself liable to arrest for drunken driving. He then got into a taxi.

"A woman who accompanied him and introduced herself to me as Mr Sheehan's wife apologised for his behaviour and informed me that she had the height of respect for the gardai, particularly for the garda who spoke to her husband inside the complex grounds.

"I then spoke to Mr Enda Kenny, TD, who was leaving the complex at this time. Mr Kenny told me to ignore what Mr Sheehan had said.

"I then spoke to [named garda] who had been on duty at Lawn in.

"She informed me that an usher had voiced concern over Mr Sheehan's ability to drive. She approached Mr Sheehan, who was in the driver's seat of his car. [Named garda] formed the opinion that Mr Sheehan was intoxicated and advised him not to drive, stating that she could arrange a taxi to collect him.

"He replied that I'm fine and told Garda [name] to follow him and proceeded to drive towards the Merrion Street gate without turning on his headlights.

"Garda [name] asked the usher on duty not to raise the barrier. She then asked Mr Sheehan again not to drive onto the public road. He eventually agreed to park the car and to travel by taxi.

"He walked back to the gate and engaged [named garda] in conversation where he proceeded to threaten her stating that she would never be promoted and that 'when we get into power you will get nothing' and that 'you'll be in trouble over this'. In the course of this exchange, Mr Sheehan made physical contact with [named garda] several times. Garda [name] expressed concern to me over threats made by this Deputy."

Yesterday Mr Sheehan also told the Sunday Independent that, since the incident, he had not apologised to the garda concerned. "I've never been contacted by the garda," he explained. He also said that he had not been contacted about the incident by Mr Kenny, nor had he ever discussed the incident with him.

Mr Sheehan said: "I have the height of personal regard for the Garda Siochana. I appreciate what they are doing.

"They are a credit to their force and to their country."

Sunday Independent

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