Shatter: I didn't use private information on Wallace driving incident

Shatter: I didn't use private information on Wallace driving incident

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said he discovered during a Garda briefing that Independent TD Mick Wallace was stopped for using a mobile phone while driving.

Standing by his decision to use the confidential details during a televised attack on his political opponent, Mr Shatter insisted he had not abused his power.

"There's no question of me using private information," he said.

"This wasn't private information. I was required to get a full briefing from the gardaí on everything to do with the fixed ticket charge issue, and much to my surprise this came up."

Mr Shatter, who is facing at least two official investigations over his public revelations, added: "It is no more complex than that."

Wexford TD Mr Wallace has admitted he was caught by gardaí last year at the Five Lamps junction in Dublin's north inner city for using a mobile phone while driving.

But he said he held his hand up at the time and was not pulled over and no warning or penalty was issued.

When challenged about the incident, by Mr Shatter during a row about allowing the force to use its discretion to overturn motoring offences, Mr Wallace initially said he couldn't remember it.

Later he said he could recall the event, but demanded to know how Mr Shatter got hold of the details.

The Independent TD is to lodge a complaint with both the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and the Data Protection Minister.

"I want this investigated", he said.

Mr Wallace said it was "crazy stuff" and he could not remember a Minister ever using information is such a way.

"How could that incident... if I wasn't even stopped and I wasn't even warned, how can this be on the record?" he said.

"Can we see the paper trial?"

Mr Shatter said the matter came up in a purely "incidental" way while he was being briefed about how the force uses its discretion on whether to issue fines for motoring misdemeanours.

"Had I not referred to that matter I could have been accused of covering up the fact that the discretion was exercised in favour of Deputy Wallace," he said.

"You can't have it both ways. You can't call for transparency and then shout foul when there is transparency."

Mr Shatter said the Wexford TD had mounted a campaign to undermine public confidence in the Garda and he was under a duty to bring maximum transparency to the debate.

Furthermore, he criticised Mr Wallace for not asking Sipo to investigate when other private individuals were named in relation to the the penalty points controversy.

Billy Hawkes, the Data Protection Commissioner, confirmed his office will fully investigate any complaint about the justice minister expected from Mr Wallace.

"I can not comment in detail because more details are needed," he said.

"What I've been saying in general is that the public sector - whether that's a minister, a Government department, An Gardaí or civil servants - they have a solemn duty to protect any personal data that comes into their possession and only to disclose it with the consent of the person concerned or if there is some other legal basis laid down in law."

Mr Hawkes said if the complaint is deemed valid, then Mr Shatter would be asked to respond to the allegation and it would be down to the commissioner to decide if data protection laws were breached.

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