Embattled Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the Garda commissioner gave him details about TD Mick Wallace escaping penalty points and that he publicly revealed it to defend the integrity of the force.
Mr Shatter offered an apology to the Wexford TD last night in the Dáil and said he was not in the business of collecting secret files on politicians.
But opposition TDs accused him of engaging in an “unlawful” action and of acting as “judge and jury” in divulging that Mr Wallace was given a warning by gardaí for using his mobile phone behind the wheel.
Mr Shatter said the incident was raised by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan during a previous briefing about the controversy surrounding the cancellation of penalty points. The Fine Gael minister said he had never requested the details from the Garda chief about the Independent TD.
He defended his decision to outline the incident on live television last week, claiming he made no allegation of wrongdoing against Mr Wallace.
He added: “It was my judgement that it was both necessary and in the public interest that I point out that Deputy Wallace had himself been a beneficiary of that discretionary exercise.
“I made the point, not to make a political charge against Deputy Wallace, nor for any personal benefit, but to defend the integrity of An Garda Síochána.”
Mr Shatter said he raised the matter on RTÉ’s Prime Time to make the point that “like tens of thousands of others he [Mr Wallace] was the beneficiary of Garda discretion being properly exercised”.
The minister added: “If Deputy Wallace feels that I did him some personal wrong by mentioning it, then I have no problem in saying I am sorry.”
Despite questions from opposition TDs, the minister did not say when he received the details on Mr Wallace from the Garda chief.
He also said he was not in the business of keeping confidential files on politicians.
Mr Wallace, who admits being caught using his phone driving, said he was never physically stopped or cautioned by gardaí when he got the warning last year.
He questioned why the minister had divulged details about his encounter with gardaí but had refused to name a superintendent who he claims cancelled 1,000 fines.
Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins said Mr Shatter had acted as “judge, jury and executioner” of a political opponent.
Independent TD Clare Daly said it was “unlawful” to divulge the data.
Mr Shatter now faces two investigations on the matter.
State ethics watchdog the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) said yesterday it was investigating a complaint by Mr Wallace about the minister’s actions, which would be considered by the commission and could be the subject of public hearings.
The Data Protection Commissioner’s office said it had decided to investigate the use of the Garda data by the minister and that deputy commissioner Tony Delaney would investigate if there were any breaches of data protection legislation.
A Garda spokesman last night referred to Mr Callinan’s obligations to inform the minister of issues.
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