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I was right to expose Wallace on TV, says defiant Minister

ALAN Shatter today staunchly defended his decision to publicly reveal that Mick Wallace escaped penalty points.

The Justice Minister has denied "spying" on political opponents and made no apologies for releasing information on RTE's PrimeTime about the Wexford TD driving while on a mobile phone.

"As minister I have the inconvenient habit of telling the truth," Mr Shatter said.

He added that he decided to speak about gardai turning a blind eye to Deputy Wallace's actions while driving as the TD "is a public personality".

He made his remarks "in the context of transparency".

Minister Shatter said that people had made "wild and wonderful" claims that he was spying on political opponent, but dismissed this as "nonsense".

"In no circumstances would I seek information from any member of the force to target any deputy," he added.

Minister Shatter is still likely to face a Dail grilling over the controversy tomorrow but can count on the full backing of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

"I think what the minister has been pointing out is that people cannot have it both ways," said the Taoiseach.

"You cannot be saying that there should be no discretion used and at the same time avail of discretion.

"The Minister for Justice is not in a position of collecting files on any individual or any member of the House or anybody else."

A line of ministers have publicly defended Mr Shatter, but the Herald understands that behind the scenes they are concerned that he is creating controversy without cause.

Mr Wallace admitted today that the incident raised by Mr Shatter occurred at the Five Lamps in Dublin's north inner city last May. Gardai pulled alongside Mr Wallace's vehicle and spoke to him, advising him to stop using his phone.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the controversy surrounding the matter was "unfounded".

There was a public interest, he said, in knowing that those who accused gardai of widespread corruption were beneficiaries for the same system.

Minister of State for Public Services Reform Brian Hayes has described the row as "a complete distraction from the main issue" which was the publication of the two reports into penalty points.

DISCLOSE

Asked if the minister should disclose how he came by the information about Mr Wallace, Mr Hayes said if someone was stopped by gardai who used their discretion and then went on national TV or radio to claim this was wrong, "that's rank hypocrisy".

"We are talking about Mr Wallace, we are talking about Deputy Luke Flanagan, who himself benefited from this practice of not having penalty points applied and then he goes out six months later and joins the chorus of condemnation against the Garda Siochana. That's rank hypocrisy."

Wexford TD Wallace said he plans to make a complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

csheehy@herald.ie


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