Friday 26 April 2019

Minister lobbied to reduce fine for constituent caught using green diesel

Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan
Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

HOUSING Minister Jan O'Sullivan successfully lobbied the Revenue to reduce a fine for a motorist caught using illegal diesel in their car.

Fines of up to €5,000 can be levied on people caught using green agricultural diesel rather than regular motor fuel.

And cases that go to court can result in sentences of up to three months in jail.

However, the Labour junior minister pressed the Revenue and argued the constituent had a regular pattern of purchasing legal diesel and regretted making "this one mistake".

And she said the motorist was in debt and did not have spare finances to pay the fine.

Her intervention prompted the Revenue to review the case and a reduced fine was issued and the payment deadline extended.

The minister's intervention was one of around a dozen cases where politicians lobbied Revenue to lessen fines for motorists using illegal fuel.

Other TDs included Joe O'Reilly and Sean Conlan of Fine Gael, Timmy Dooley, Dara Calleary and Robert Troy of Fianna Fail, Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein, and Independent Thomas Pringle. Revenue did not disclose the outcome of these cases.

However, records show officials also reduced a fine in a case where they were lobbied repeatedly by Independent TD Michael Lowry. Mr Lowry wrote to and called officials at the Revenue's mineral oil prosecution unit in Bridgend, Co Donegal, on several occasions during late 2011 and early 2012.

He claimed a constituent's car had been filled by someone else who had "accidentally put the incorrect fuel into the vehicle".

Mr Lowry also argued the man was living under severe financial pressure and could not afford to pay the fine.

The fine was subsequently reduced by Revenue, although Mr Lowry came back to lobby for an even further reduction shortly afterwards.

A Revenue spokeswoman said officials acted independently of political pressure.

However, she added that there were provisions in legislation for the mitigation of fines or penalties.

"Additional facts or circumstances put forward by the individual concerned or a representative on his or her behalf may have an impact on the decision of a Revenue official to mitigate penalties," she said.

"Circumstances which may or may not have an influence on the case include the value of the vehicle, whether it is used for private or commercial purposes, and the individual's health and financial circumstances.

"The source of additional information received by Revenue has no influence on the outcome of the case. Revenue's independence is a fundamental principle of the administration of the tax system."

Irish Independent

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