Leaders support under-fire Shatter

Government leaders said they supported Alan Shatter as the justice minister faced questions about obtaining Garda details on a TD, a move which he denied was sinister.

Mr Shatter said yesterday he had obtained details from the Garda commissioner about Independent TD Mick Wallace being warned by gardaí about driving while using his mobile phone. However, opposition and coalition TDs last night said further questions remained including how the garda chief was informed of the incident, when the minister was briefed, and whether the divulgence of the details on television by the minister breached data protection regulations.

The incident occurred last May when the Wexford TD was driving in north Dublin and was warned by gardaí for using his phone. The TD was warned by gardaí but given no fine. Mr Wallace has previously criticised the quashing of penalty points by members of the force.

Mr Shatter told the Dáil last night he had collected no confidential files on politicians and was sorry if he had done personal wrong against the TD. He said he had revealed the details in the public interest and to defend the force’s integrity.

Enda Kenny defended his minister’s actions yesterday, adding: “The situation is that the information was relevant to the argument being made by Deputy Wallace.”

Mr Kenny insisted Mr Shatter had not sought to undermine Mr Wallace, but to “undermine his argument”.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told RTÉ he had full support for Mr Shatter. However, he admitted the public had concerns about the use of garda data because of the issue.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams yesterday asked for an independent investigation into the affair — including the disclosure of information on Mr Wallace.

Mr Wallace again called for an independent inquiry into the cancellation of penalty points by gardaí.

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins repeated his call for the minister to resign, saying Mr Shatter had looked for the resignations of ministers Bobby Molloy and Willie O’Dea in similar circumstances when he was on the opposition benches.

The opposition justice spokesman said Mr Shatter had a number of questions to answer in the Dáil, including who gave him the briefing and if he had similar information on others.

Mr Shatter has agreed to appear before Oireachtas hearings which are expected to examine penalty points being cancelled by gardaí.

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