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Sunday 13 October 2019

Dail to hear of tape by the penalty point garda

Clare Daly to reveal whistle-blower’s conversation with Shatter top official

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter

DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent

INDEPENDENT TD Clare Daly will next week use a Dail sitting to reveal details of a conversation between one of the garda whistle-blowers in the penalty points controversy and an official appointed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Oliver Connolly is the official “Confidential Recipient” appointed under law by the Minister for Justice to receive complaints from garda whistle-blowers.

One of the whistle-blowers has become concerned about advice that he claims to have received from Mr Connolly.

According to him, the Confidential Recipient, while sympathetic and understanding when responding to the complaints, pointed out that there could be difficulties for him if details of his claims were published in the media.

The whistle-blower is understood to have given a transcript of his recording of that conversation with Mr Connolly to Ms Daly and was under the impression it would be raised in the Dail last week.

This development follows increasing pressure on the minister as calls for his resignation mount, including from the Government’s junior ministerial ranks and backbenches ahead of a Fianna Fail motion of no-confidence.

The Confidential Recipient, Mr Connolly, is believed to have been concerned about the limitations of internal garda investigations into complaints raised by the whistleblowers.

Asked yesterday to comment, a Department of Justice spokesman, on behalf of Mr Connolly, said he does not comment on individual cases.

Mr Connolly, a lawyer with what Mr Shatter has described as “outstanding credentials”, was appointed Confidential Recipient in 2011.

He had donated €1,000 to Mr Shatter’s election campaign during the 2007 election, a donation that was properly disclosed at the time.

An RTE report of this political donation led to the minister accusing its crime correspondent of “tabloid sen- sationalism”, for which Mr Shatter later apologised.

The whistle-blower who recorded the conversation believes that the Oireachtas is the appropriate place to air the transcript, rather than the media.

The matter had been expected to be raised by Ms Daly in the Dail last week.

A department spokesman, on behalf of the minister, said: “Communications between the Confidential Recipient and any member of the force who contacts him are absolutely confidential. Neither the minister nor his department have any knowledge of any such communications.”

 In a further development, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has this weekend waded into the Shatter controversy, stating that the constitutional privilege afforded to TDs and senators to evade arrest is “outdated and largely redundant in modern 21st Century Ireland”.

Suggestions that Mr Shatter might have used this privilege were referred to in the Dail last week when independent TD Mattie McGrath raised an incident involving the justice minister failing to provide a breath test at a garda checkpoint.

Mr Shatter is reported to have told gardai at the checkpoint that he was on his way from the Dail.

He is also reported to have claimed that his failure to complete the breath test was because he suffered from asthma.

He once described his condition to the Dail as “only slightly asthmatic” and said it did not affect him.

Meanwhile, on foot of a letter from a “deeply alarmed” Road Safety Authority, Mr Varadkar is to write to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges in order to stamp out “any potential abuse” of the parliamentary privilege by members travelling to and from Leinster House.

The Road Safety Authority, expressing itself deeply concerned about the “persistent and ambiguous” mis-use by elected members of both the Dail and Seanad of the constitutional provision, wrote to Mr Varadkar last month and called on him to end such confusion.

Yesterday, two junior ministers speaking on condition of anonymity called on Mr Kenny to remove Mr Shatter from his post.

“We have had 10 days of this nonsense, and the arrogant plonker that Shatter is, it was all of his own making. Of course Kenny should get rid of him,” said one junior minister.

Another said: “He barely looks at you, and when he does he’s looking down at you.

“He made a hero out of Wallace, a tax defaulter, when he didn’t need to.

“But this stuff about the asthma is farcical. We’d be better off without him.” A canvass of Labour TDs and senators revealed considerable disquiet with Mr Shatter’s explanation of the time he was stopped by gardai, with many calling on the garda report to be made public, if such a report exists.

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