McGrath withdraws comments about gardaí politicising the new drink driving laws

McGrath withdraws comments about gardaí politicising the new drink driving laws

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath has withdrawn his claims gardai are politicising the new drink driving laws after Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan labelled the comments "bizarre" and "dangerous".

Mr McGrath admitted his remarks were "wrong" and said he has full confidence in the gardai after facing a backlash from Fine Gael and his own Independent Alliance colleagues over his criticism of the life-saving law changes.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent Mr McGrath said the implementation of new rules championed by his own Independent Alliance colleague, Transport Minister Shane Ross, are "really over the top" and go too far.

And in a pointed reference to the gardai implementing the new law, Mr McGrath called on garda commissioner Drew Harris to "de-politicise" the issue, saying: "A police force - like teachers, nurses - guards should always be non-political. I would like Drew Harris now, as part of the reforms we have, to de-politicise anything like that in a police force.

“To me, the breathalysing time should be at pub closing times between 12 o’clock and 2am in the morning. That’s where the focus should be, so I don’t know what agenda is going on there."

The comments provoked an immediate reaction from Government colleagues, with Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan labelling them "bizarre" and "dangerous".

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Flanagan said Mr McGrath's comments about a new law the entire cabinet - including Mr McGrath - signed off on are wrong, saying:

"Bewildering and bizarre comments by @FinianMcGrathTD in today’s Sunday Independent. Allegations of ‘political policing' unwise even dangerous."

He later went further, telling the Irish Examiner:

"I don't agree with Finian's comments and I don't believe they're appropriate. The traffic corps works hard to implement the law, the purpose of which is to keep all road users safe and prevent accidents to the greatest extent possible."

Asked about the matter on RTE's The Week in Politics programme, junior finance minister and Fine Gael TD Patrick O Donovan agreed, saying Mr McGrath should "withdraw" the remarks.

"I would agree with Charlie Flanagan, Finian's comments are really bizarre. Since the foundation of this State, the one thing we've always had is an independent police force. I think he should withdraw them [the comments], yes," Mr O Donovan said.

With the political temperature rising Mr McGrath apologised on Sunday evening, admitting in a statement he went too far and was wrong in what he said.

“Nobody is more supportive of the work An Garda Siochána does - often in tough circumstances - than I am. My comments in this morning's Sunday Independent were prompted by concerns raised with me over the past number of weeks. I acknowledge that these concerns were wrong and I am happy to withdraw my comments.

"I am also happy to state that I have full confidence in An Garda Siochána and that I was wrong to suggest there was any element of politicising within the force over the new drink driving regulations," he said.

The comments were welcomed by the Independent Alliance which said while all members are "entitled to voice their views, it is only right Minister McGrath withdrew those remarks".

Earlier: Flanagan labels McGrath's 'bizzare' political policing comments as 'unwise, even dangerous'

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and a second Fine Gael minister labelled cabinet colleague and Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath's claims gardai are politicising the new drink driving laws as "bizarre" and "unwise, even dangerous".

Mr Flanagan and junior finance minister Patrick O'Donovan hit out at Mr McGrath after he told a Sunday newspaper he believes the gardai's approach to the new drink driving laws which he and other ministers signed off on is "really over the top".

In an interview with the Sunday Independent today, Disabilities Minister Mr McGrath said new rules to combat drink driving pushed by Transport Minister and fellow Independent Alliance member Shane Ross were going too far.

And in a pointed reference to the gardai implementing the new law, Mr McGrath called on garda commissioner Drew Harris to "de-politicise" the issue, saying:

"A police force - like teachers, nurses - guards should always be non-political. I would like Drew Harris now, as part of the reforms we have, to de-politicise anything like that in a police force.

“To me, the breathalysing time should be at pub closing times between 12 o’clock and 2am in the morning. That’s where the focus should be, so I don’t know what agenda is going on there."

Responding to the comment on Twitter on Sunday morning, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said Mr McGrath's remarks about "political policing" are "bewildering and bizarre".

Saying they are also "unwise, even dangerous", Mr Flanagan said:

"Bewildering and bizarre comments by @FinianMcGrathTD in today’s Sunday Independent. Allegations of ‘political policing unwise even dangerous."

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Mr Flanagan added:

"I don't agree with Finian's comments and I don't believe they're appropriate. The Traffic Corps works hard to implement the law, the purpose of which is to keepall road users safe and prevent accidents to the greatest extent possible."

Asked about the matter on RTE's The Week in Politics programme, junior finance minister and Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan agreed, saying Mr McGrath should "withdraw" the remarks.

"I'd agree, I think bizarre as well. Finian sits at the cabinet table... I would agree with Charlie Flanagan, Finian's comments are really bizarre.

"Since the foundation of this State, one thing we've always had are independent police. I think we should withdraw them [the comments], yes," Mr O'Donovan said.

Minister hits out at Garda enforcement of drink driving laws

McGrath withdraws comments about gardaí politicising the new drink driving laws

A government Minister claims Garda enforcement of new drink driving laws is over the top.

Independent TD Finian Mc Grath has called on the Garda Commissioner to intervene.

The Disabilities Minister Finian Mc Grath admits the government had to bite the bullet and introduce the new laws on drink-driving and unaccompanied learner drivers.

However, in an interview with the Sunday Independent, he has hit out at the manner in which the laws are enforced by Gardai.

Minister Mc Grath said they are over the top and claimed there is a political agenda in the way they are handled.

The Minister is calling on the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to de-politicise anything like that in the force, as part of the reforms currently underway of policing in Ireland.

Finian Mc Grath also claims Fine Gael Ministers were using the Transport Minister Shane Ross as a fall guy by people living in rural Ireland

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