Friday 19 January 2018

Shatter sorry over using Garda data

Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has apologised for his use of confidential Garda information against a political opponent.

As the minister faced down multiple calls for his resignation, he was forced to defend his attack on Independent TD Mick Wallace last week during an on-air debate about the penalty points controversy.

Mr Shatter said: "I believe that I acted in the public interest and my doing should have none of the connotations that some have ascribed to it. However, as I have acknowledged on other occasions, none of us have a monopoly of wisdom. If Deputy Wallace feels that I did him some personal wrong by mentioning it, then I have no problem in saying I am sorry."

Mr Shatter rejected suggestions he would use confidential information to damage an opponent. He said: "I want to give a solemn assurance to the house that I am not in the business of receiving, seeking or maintaining confidential, sensitive information from An Garda Siochana about members of this house, the Seanad or, indeed, anyone in political life. Nor are the gardai in the business of providing it."

Mr Shatter and Mr Wallace clashed last week on RTE Prime Time over whether gardai should be allowed to use their discretion in quashing minor motoring offences or fixed charges.

The Justice Minister revealed during the debate that Mr Wallace was caught by gardai last year at the Five Lamps junction in Dublin's north inner city for using a mobile phone while driving but was not fined or charged.

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

Mr Shatter said he believed it was in the public's interest to reveal the information - which he had obtained from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan during a special garda briefing.

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny dismissed calls for the minister's resignation amid accusations he had abused his position of power. Mr Kenny insisted the information given to Mr Shatter was relevant and he denied suggestions that files might be held on other politicians, public figures or journalists.

Mr Kenny said: "It's outrageous for you to make a claim or insinuation that the Minister for Justice is going around collecting files on individuals or members of this House ... that's an outrageous claim."

Press Association

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