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Monday 21 October 2019

Gilmore says Shatter affair raises ‘wider’ privacy issues

Lyndsey Telford

CONFIDENTIAL garda information about an individual should not be made public unless the person has been charged, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has claimed.

While Mr Gilmore defended his cabinet colleague Justice Minister Alan Shatter over his use of garda information against Independent TD Mick Wallace, he said the issue of privacy needs to be discussed.

"There is an issue in relation to privacy and I think that's an issue that probably requires a longer and wider discussion, and is probably an issue that will be addressed by an Oireachtas committee," Mr Gilmore said.

"Issues that An Garda Siochana are dealing with should not come out into the public domain unless there is an actual charge, either through the media or any other way."

Speaking on The Last Word with Matt Cooper on Today FM this evening, Wallace responded to Minister Alan Shatter’s defence of his actions in relation to the way he acquired information that Wallace was caught using a phone while driving by Gardaí.

Mick Wallace says he hopes the Standards in Public Office Commission will get to the bottom of the penalty points debacle. Last night Justice Minister Alan Shatter addressed the Dáil in the wake of revelations he made that Deputy Wallace had evaded penalty points due to Garda discretion.

Wallace told Matt Cooper that he wants an independent inquiry into this issue, and claimed that Minister Shatter had abused his power.

Mr Shatter yesterday stopped short of apologising to Mr Wallace after revealing on television that he had been stopped by gardai using a mobile phone while driving but was not prosecuted.

He said he would say sorry if the former builder felt personally wronged by remarks he made during an on-air TV debate last week.

The minister claimed he had acted in the public interest.

The pair have repeatedly clashed over whether gardai should be allowed to use their discretion in quashing minor motoring offences or fixed charges.

Mr Shatter said he had been given the information on Mr Wallace by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in a special briefing.

The Wexford TD has lodged complaints with the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and the Data Protection Commission.

Mr Shatter has faced down continued calls for his resignation following the remarks, but the Tanaiste has now joined Taoiseach Enda Kenny in defending his actions, albeit while raising questions over the need for privacy.

Mr Gilmore also insisted he has full confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the relationship he maintains with the minister.

He repeated claims from Mr Shatter that neither he nor the gardai keep tabs on politicians.

"There is no questions whatever of Minister Shatter or An Garda Siochana keeping tabs on members of this house, or minister Shatter or anyone in the Government keeping tabs on political opponents," the Tanaiste added.

The Justice Minister was forced to defend his remarks in the Dail on Tuesday when he made a statement on releasing the information about Mr Wallace.

He said he made the remarks on air because the Independent TD had been making "grossly unfair" comments about gardai and that he wanted to restore public confidence in the force.

Elsewhere, Mr Wallace and a string of opposition TDs have continued to push for a public inquiry into the wider penalty points controversy and gardai expunging the record of fixed charge penalties before they come to court.

They have argued that an internal probe into the controversy was not enough and that gardai should not investigate gardai.

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