‘Just a matter of lifting phone to get points quashed’

A TD has revealed his wife took two penalty points he should have received and a former ceann comhairle said it was a “matter of lifting the phone” to get points quashed.

Some TDs contacted as part an Irish Examiner investigation said they had been asked to help wipe points for others, although the majority, 76%, or 127 of 166, TDs, said they had never had penalty points removed. Five TDs from different parties refused to comment and 32 failed to respond to queries.

Several politicians said they were approached by constituents to help quash points from other people’s records.

Among those who failed to respond were the leaders of the main parties: Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny; Labour’s Eamon Gilmore; and Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin. Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams said he had never sought or had points cancelled.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar also failed to respond, despite having responsibility for this area.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley and Niall Collins refused to answer queries about penalty points, as did Independent TDs Michael Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry, as well as Fine Gael’s Paul Kehoe.

Mr Healy-Rae said: “I’m the most guilty man in the house for speeding over the years — more guilty than anyone else for speeding. I’m very honest and open but I don’t have to answer those questions.”

Fine Gael TD Andrew Doyle said his wife ended up with his points for speeding, blaming the incorrect allocation on forms sitting “in her handbag”.

The Wicklow TD said a fine was issued to his wife, as the car was registered in her name, but the couple never returned forms telling authorities that he was behind the wheel that night.

“The car is in her name, the jeep is in mine,” said the Kildare TD. “I signed the [fine] forms but she forgot to send them back. They stayed in her handbag. My wife ended up with the two points.”

Mr Doyle said he was driving home after a late- night Dáil vote on Nama in 2009 when caught driving at 82km/h in a 60km zone.

Former ceann comhairle and Fianna Fáil TD Seamus Kirk said he could not remember if he had points quashed in the past, but added: “If I received penalty points, I would notify gardaí on the way to Leinster House and they were cancelled.”

Mr Kirk said he could not rule out having had points quashed in the past for speeding, using a special exemption for TDs.

“In the past it may have happened, possibly it did...

“It was a matter of lifting the phone or writing and pointing it out to [gardaí],” said the Louth TD.

Fine Gael party chairman TD Charlie Flanagan said he was asked by a garda who caught him speeding if he wanted an exemption, but he declined fearing that the garda may have had “a motive”.

The revelations come after calls for Independent TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan to resign after he admitted gardaí wiped his penalty points after he was caught using his phone behind the wheel. The outspoken TD, who had fronted a campaign to expose the practice of gardaí canceling penalty points, later apologised.

Other TDs from different parties admitted having been fined for speeding while travelling to Leinster House and said elected officials should just “take penalty points on the chin”.

Mr Shatter has set up a Garda inquiry into the wiping of penalty points, with the report due soon.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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