Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In Brief

In a public televised debate, Mick Wallace, TD, said that the Garda should not have any discretion in the matter of issuing/cancelling penalty points.

The Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, reminded Deputy Wallace that he had benefitted from Garda discretion himself when caught using a mobile phone while driving.

The question was, where did the Minister get this information which was not in the public domain and was he entitled to use it in public.

It has emerged that the Minister got the information from the Garda Commissioner in the course of a briefing on the matter of penalty points. The Commissioner claims he was alerting the Minister about it in case Deputy Wallace referred to it in the course of debate.

Deputy Wallace did not refer to it and initially could not even remember the incident.

While I hold no candle for Deputy Wallace, whose behaviour has been disgaceful, I do not see how the Minister could be entitled to use such information in public, and were he to do so in the heat of debate he should at least apologise, and not just to Mick Wallace, but to the Irish people for a totally inappropriate use of information, fed to him as Minister for Justice, in a debate with a political opponent.

Apparently the debate was not hot and the Minister has no intention of recognising the gravity of what he has done. He has now apologised to Mick Wallace, if the latter was offended. That is not really the point and he has stoutly defended his action, dragging in spurious reference to the public interest and the public's entitlement to be made aware of where Deputy Wallace was coming from.

He has shown a complete inability to appreciate the seriousness of what he has done. This is surprising for a very experienced lawyer. One can only conclude that his stubborn stance comes from ego and arrogance.

Hardly surprising in one who is an aggressive supporter of the Israeli Government which is pursuing manifestly illegal and genocidal policies towards the Palestinians.

Clearly he should not just consider his position but should go, and stop undermining the credibility of others who feel obliged to jump to his defence.

My interest, however, is also in the Commissioner having supplied the Minister with this personal information. Did he know his Minister well enough to realise that it would be used sooner or later, and if not, why not.

I can recall, in my own public service career, being accused by a Minister of briefing him with partisan information. As far as I was concerned, at the time, the information was certainly partisan, but not in the domestic party political sense that the Minister thought. It was specifically designed to counter misleading British propaganda and I had every hope that the Minister would use it in the debate for which I was briefing him.

The current controversy, though, sounds like a different kettle of fish entirely.

Next time you're using your
mobile phone at a traffic light.

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