Wednesday 16 October 2019

So, it's over to you now minister – we need an explanation

Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace
Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace
John Downing

John Downing

ANY way you look at it, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has some very important questions to answer in Dail Eireann this evening.

Mr Shatter had, at all events, left serious questions unanswered when he delivered his short statement last Thursday afternoon about an incident at a garda drink-driving checkpoint, in either late 2008 or early 2009, in central Dublin.

A report in this newspaper today adds considerably to the importance and urgency surrounding this issue.

Today's report appears to be at variance with Mr Shatter's recollection and recounting so far of what happened.

We now need the minister to go into the national parliament and fully explain himself and then answer questions which may arise from his account.

In summary the key questions he needs to deal with are as follows:

* Did Mr Shatter cite the constitutional provision which he believed gave him immunity from being stopped at a garda checkpoint?

* Does he still maintain he said his asthma prevented him from giving an adequate breath specimen?

* Was Mr Shatter rude, or at least less than polite, to the garda who dealt with him?

* Did he cite his role as a TD along the lines of, 'don't you know who I am?'

Ministers of both parties in the Coalition have tried to dismiss this issue as something relatively trivial being exaggerated by journalists and opposition politicians.

They adopt a lofty tone and seek to trivialise it as tittle-tattle.

But this is not acceptable from Fine Gael which has always portrayed itself as the party of law and order.

Nor is it acceptable from Labour which lays great emphasis on transparency and equality for all under the law.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that Mr Shatter, all by himself, began this second element in the cancellation of driver penalty points controversy.

On live television, he casually, but wrongly, threw out a piece of garda confidential information about a political rival, the Independent TD Mick Wallace.

It is true these incidents have a certain ring of the everyday.

And yes, they are a distraction from the main business of fixing this broken economy and getting people back to work.

But fundamental fairness in the everyday events of life is just as important as it is in what might be thought the bigger things.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has himself pointed out that most law-abiding citizens' main point of contact with gardai is about traffic issues and they are entitled to take their perceptions of garda fairness from these contacts.

There is a basis for citing it as a danger of distraction from the central work of the Government. But that merely adds to the urgency for this business to be brought to a speedy conclusion.

So, Mr Shatter – it's over to you.

Irish Independent

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