Sunday 18 August 2019

McGrath's claims of political policing just 'a mistake', Taoiseach assures Garda chief

Grovelling apology: Finian McGrath spoke to Cabinet. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Grovelling apology: Finian McGrath spoke to Cabinet. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Philip Ryan and Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been forced to assure Garda Commissioner Drew Harris that the Government does not support Disability Minister Finian McGrath's controversial claims of political policing.

Speaking during a high-level security meeting in Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar told Deputy Commissioner John Twomey that he did not share Mr McGrath's views on the enforcement of new road safety laws.

At the scheduled meeting of Cabinet Committee F, which deals with national security, on Monday, Mr Varadkar said he did not believe gardaí were carrying out unnecessary breathalyser checks because they oppose new drink- driving laws.

He also noted that Mr McGrath had retracted and apologised for his comments.

The Taoiseach is also understood to have emphasised that it was up to the Oireachtas to legislate and it was for gardaí to enforce the law "fairly and proportionately".

Mr Twomey agreed to pass on the Taoiseach's remarks to the Garda Commissioner, who is currently away.

The deputy commissioner also said Mr McGrath's apology has been accepted by Garda Headquarters, according to Government sources.

Mr Twomey added that the matter was now closed.

Yesterday, Mr McGrath apologised directly to his Cabinet colleagues for his controversial remarks about gardaí.

Sources said he made the "grovelling apology" to ministers and admitted he made a mistake in accusing gardaí of political policing.

At a meeting of Fine Gael ministers, the Taoiseach defended Mr McGrath saying "everyone makes a mistake" and said the Government should move on.

His comments followed demands for Mr McGrath's resignation from the families of road victims and calls for him to apologise to gardaí.

He came in for severe criticism after he claimed in a 'Sunday Independent' interview that gardaí have become politicised and have been "over the top" in the implementation of tougher drink-driving laws.

He also claimed gardaí were blaming Transport Minister Shane Ross for the laws when stopping motorists.

Mr McGrath withdrew his comments on Sunday evening and said they were "wrong" in the midst of a furious response from Government colleagues and gardaí. He also apologised "unreservedly" to the families of road victims and gardaí.

Mr McGrath said it was never his intention to cause hurt to anyone and insisted the victims of drink-driving and their families have always been his priority.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section