Saturday 25 January 2020

John Downing: Three crucial questions – only one real answer

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter
John Downing

John Downing

ALAN Shatter came to Leinster House last night faced with three crucial questions about an incident at a garda drink-driving checkpoint in late 2008 or early 2009 in central Dublin.

We got one full answer which is still being challenged. A second question was just touched upon – a third question was largely ignored.

The Justice Minister emphatically insisted that his asthma prevented him giving a breath sample as asked by the garda at the checkpoint.

He further argued that there was no reason to feign inability to give such a sample as he had no alcohol taken – it would have been far easier to blow and be done with the matter.

That emphatic answer is at variance with information given by garda sources to this newspaper. But Mr Shatter was definitive in his comments.

FORTHCOMING

He was far less forthcoming on two other key points: did he specifically invoke Dail privilege under Article 15.13 of Bunreacht na hEireann which purportedly forbids the detention of a TD or Senator going to, or coming from, the parliament?

Mr Shatter speaks of having "informed the garda that I was on my way home from the Dail where I have been working all evening, had consumed no alcohol and that I suffered from asthma".

From this we are led to believe that Mr Shatter is fudging the issue – something which would not reflect well upon him in all the circumstances.

Many of his senior colleagues yesterday insisted that it was high time to either scrap or drastically alter this out-dated constitutional provision framed in far different times.

The third key question is whether he behaved with courtesy in his dealings with the garda who questioned him? And here he is silent except to indicate that he did not leave the scene without due signal from the garda.

"I was subsequently waved on," is all Mr Shatter said here.

He ignored all questions being shouted at him from the other side of the chamber.

Mr Shatter's speech ran to six full A4 pages of single-spaced type. Then he said that he was the subject of a no-confidence vote for two reasons.

The first related to things he said live on RTE's 'Prime Time' about Wexford Independent TD, Mick Wallace, last Thursday week; the second came from a series of Dail questions posed by Independent TD, Mattie McGrath, last Thursday.

Mr Shatter expressed some regret about how he handled the live television comments about Deputy Wallace getting a warning rather than penalty points.

He claimed to have already apologised to Deputy Wallace, which many will feel was stretching a point.

But he acknowledged that he put the Garda Commissioner, who he had later said informed him about Deputy Wallace's story, in an unfair position.

Irish Independent

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