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Ahern won't criticise drink driver TD in garda threat

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern has refused to condemn Fine Gael TD PJ Sheehan for attempting to drive out of Leinster House while drunk because he is "a good friend".

The elderly TD last night resigned as the opposition's Deputy Spokesperson on Agriculture but a group that campaigns on behalf of families devastated by road tragedies says that he should be kicked out of Fine Gael altogether.

Mr Sheehan has apologised for the July incident during which it is alleged that he "threatened" a young gardai who prevented him from driving out of the grounds of Leinster House while intoxicated.

But last night, Minister Ahern said that the issue was "entirely a matter for PJ Sheehan".

When asked if he would take action over the incident, Mr Ahern replied: "I mean, PJ Sheehan on a personal basis is a good friend of mine. I like him."

He added: "It's unfortunate that this situation arose but it's entirely a matter for PJ and his own party."

Just hours before the incident the Dail had been debating the Road Traffic Bill 2009, which will reduce the allowable blood alcohol level for drivers from 80mg to 50mg.

Mr Sheehan has offered "a full and unreserved apology" for his behaviour and said that it was "totally out of character".

He was called to a meeting with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday after which he resigned his spokesperson position with immediate effect.

"I have advised the Party Leader that I do not want to be considered for any other position. I will continue to work diligently on behalf of my constituents in Cork South West," he said in a personal statement.

But a spokesperson for Public Against Road Carnage told the Herald today that Mr Sheehan should be thrown out of Fine Gael because of his actions.

"God only knows the damage he could have caused. It beggars belief," said a spokeswoman for PARC. "It's scary. The mindset and the culture that exists is scary. It's great to see it coming out so that the public know."

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