TD reported to ethics watchdog after penalty-points statement

TD reported to ethics watchdog after penalty-points statement
Joan Collins TD

A TD has been reported to an ethics watchdog after she named two public figures as allegedly having penalty points struck out by gardaí.

People Before Profit’s Joan Collins was accused of a serious breach of parliamentary privilege for naming rugby star Ronan O’Gara and crime writer Paul Williams as having penalties cancelled.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said he had written to a number of TDs who had previously raised the issue warning them not to name individuals.

“The Deputy was also cautioned by the chair at the time of the remarks,” Mr Barrett said.

“In view of these events, and the prior notice given to the deputies, I regard Deputy Collins’ references as a serious breach of privilege and I’m referring the matter to the Committee of Procedure and Privileges.”

Ms Collins made the remarks in the Dáil yesterday during a debate on the controversy over the termination of motoring offences by the gardaí.

Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly also raised the issue.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter revealed last night that 197 allegations of penalty points being struck out were being investigated.

The allegations relate to the cancellation of fixed charge notices, which are issued as an alternative to prosecution and usually when a driver is found to be speeding.

It allows the motorist to pay a fine and incur penalty points.

Mr Shatter said members of the gardaí ranking inspector or higher have the authority to cancel notices – usually when there would not be enough evidence to prosecute or when prosecution would be unfair or disproportionate.

He said incidents involving emergency vehicles, or where there was a medical certificate relating to wearing seatbelts, or when a sick child was being driven to hospital were among those when exemptions could be applied.

The minister added that a total of 1,460,726 fixed charge notices were issued from the start of 2009 to June this year.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed an assistant commissioner to examine the accusations, who has compiled an interim report.

The Ceann Comhairle said Ms Collins was not covered by privilege in the naming of people outside the Dáil, if and when those remarks were found to be defamatory.

Amid the privilege controversy, Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn was suspended from the house after accusing the Ceann Comhairle of double standards.

He said the chairman should have reprimanded Taoiseach Enda Kenny following a row with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Mr Kenny made remarks about Mr Adams' past, referring to the murder of one of the so-called 'Disappeared', Belfast woman Jean McConville, and the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast.

The Sinn Féin TD shouted “double standards” across the chamber as Mr Barrett made a statement concerning Ms Collins.

Mr MacLochlainn argued the Taoiseach should have his knuckles wrapped for the remarks made about the Sinn Féin president.

The Dáil voted to suspend Mr MacLochlainn from service for three working days.

He initially refused to leave the chamber, forcing the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the Dáil for 45 minutes.

He finally left before Dáil security were forced to remove him.

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