| 10°C Dublin

Diplomats spark a row by flouting traffic laws

A DIPLOMATIC row is in the offing over D4 embassies flouting our traffic laws.

A Dublin TD has called for the immunity afforded to diplomats to be urgently reviewed.

International agreements that protect foreign embassy staff from being prosecuted in Ireland are being abused, warned Fine Gael Deputy Derek Keating.

The politician was appalled by incidents of traffic and parking violations in Dublin committed by some embassy staff who later pleaded diplomatic immunity.

The TD said a recent traffic incident involving a Dublin man whose car was damaged by a staff member of a foreign embassy resulted in the perpetrator escaping any penalty because of diplomatic immunity.

Another incident which disturbed him was recounted on the Liveline radio show in which a woman remonstrated with a man who parked in a handicapped parking space without the required disabled badge. The driver informed her he had immunity from the law because he worked at the Nigerian embassy.

"There is no doubt that the issue of immunity is being abused in Dublin. Traffic violations should not be covered by diplomatic immunity rules. It is time that the immunity issue was urgently reconsidered in the interests of fairness to all," he told the Herald.

He raised the matter in the Dail and asked Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore if the minister's attention had been drawn to "alleged abuses by certain countries" of traffic violations and parking offences.

Tanaiste Gilmore told the Dail the 58 resident embassies in Ireland were covered by the Diplomatic and Immunities Act 1967, and other Acts, based on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

When traffic violations by embassy staff were brought to the attention of the Department of Foreign Affairs by gardai, officials from the department "reminds resident embassies about their obligations" under the Vienna Convention "to respect the laws and regulations" of the State, said the minister.



Consistent

Embassies generally operate in compliance with Irish law and the department works with the Irish authorities to ensure the law is upheld and investigations undertaken, said the minister.

"I would assure the Deputy that my department will do everything it can, consistent with its obligations under the Vienna Convention, to ensure fair treatment for all," he added.

An example of one such incident reported 18 months ago was a case of a diplomat charged with drink driving after he was allegedly spotted by gardai driving through the centre of Dublin in a car with only two tyres.

The diplomat was detained when gardai investigated a report that a car was being driven on Ellis Quay with sparks emerging from the wheels on the passenger's side of the vehicle. The man told gardai in the station that he was seeking diplomatic immunity and declined to undertake a breath test.

Inquiries subsequently indicated the man worked at an embassy in Dublin.

aokeeffe@herald.ie


Privacy