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Shatter facing standards probe over TV claims

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Independent TD Mick Wallace and, right, Alan Shatter

Independent TD Mick Wallace and, right, Alan Shatter

Independent TD Mick Wallace and, right, Alan Shatter

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is facing the prospect of an investigation into his allegations about Independent TD Mick Wallace using a mobile phone while driving.

Mr Shatter claimed on RTE's 'Prime Time' that the Wexford TD was let off with a warning after he was stopped by a garda.

Mr Wallace is insisting that he is "unaware" of the incident and plans to complain to the Standards in Public Office Commission about the comments

The commission can send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions if it believes a criminal offence has been committed.

It can also send a report back to the Dail for it to take disciplinary action – such as a motion of censure or suspension without pay for 20 days.

The controversy arose after Mr Shatter was debating this week's report into the cancellation of penalty points, which Mr Wallace has criticised as a "whitewash".

The opposition accused the Justice Minister of using private information from the gardai to score a "political point" against Mr Wallace.

And in a statement, Mr Wallace accused Mr Shatter of breaching the code of conduct for ministers that requires them to respect confidential information given to them and observe the highest standards of behaviour.

"I believe that this allegation represents a serious abuse of the minister's powers," he said.

RIVALS

Mr Shatter failed to answer questions from the Irish Independent about whether his allegations were based on information supplied by the gardai.

He also would not say if he was being briefed by the gardai about other incidents involving political rivals.

Instead, he released a statement accusing Mr Wallace of making a "pretence for political purposes" that gardai should not have the power to use their discretion in any circumstances in terminating a fixed-charge notice.

And he said that Mr Wallace had been "concealing the fact" that garda discretion had been exercised in relation to himself.

"I believed it was a matter of public importance that those viewing the programme be in a position to assess the credibility of the deputy's position," he said.

But he will be legally obliged to respond next week to two parliamentary questions which have been sent to him by a concerned Labour backbencher. Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys has asked him if he has been provided with information by the gardai about TDs and senators – and if he's entitled to such information.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins said his party had expressed growing concerns about Mr Shatter's attitude as Justice Minister.

"His behaviour – where he essentially betrayed the confidence of the gardai and used private, privileged information to score a political point against an opponent – further justifies those concerns," he said.

Green Party justice spokesman Roderic O'Gorman questioned whether Mr Shatter had a 'naughty or nice' file about all political rivals.

Independent Dublin South Central TD Joan Collins, who has campaigned on the penalty points issue with Mr Wallace, said that Mr Shatter's comments on Prime Time were inappropriate.

Irish Independent