Silence of TD speaks volumes, judge told

Mick Wallace

Mick Wallace’s silence as to what action he may take against former justice minister Alan Shatter regarding what he said about the Wexford TD on RTÉ’s Primetime programme "speaks volumes", a judge was told yesterday.

Eileen Barrington, counsel for Mr Shatter, told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that Mr Wallace “doesn’t have to tell the court what his position is but it speaks volumes that he won’t”.

Ms Barrington led the former minister’s appeal against the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision that Mr Shatter breached data protection laws in announcing on television that Mr Wallace had been the beneficiary of garda discretion in relation to using a phone while driving.

She told the Circuit Civil Court that Mr Shatter continued to be of the view that any legal action that would be taken by Mr Wallace would be taken against him and not against the current Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

Responding to legal argument by Paul Anthony McDermot, counsel for the data commissioner, and solicitor Gareth Noble, for Mr Wallace, Ms Barrington suggested the court should find there was no basis for deciding Mr Shatter had no legal standing to appeal commissioner Billy Hawkes’s decision.

She said everything flowed from the finding that Mr Shatter was a data controller, albeit carrying only in his head information that had been passed to him in a discussion with the Garda commissioner. If Mr Shatter could not appeal the commissioner’s finding, which carried consequences for him, then nobody could and that could not be right.

“In the very last paragraph of a one-page analysis of his 12-page decision, the data commissioner concludes with references to damages and states that data controllers are liable to an individual for damages if they fail to observe a duty of care towards them,” she said.

Ms Barrington said the notice party to the appeal, Mr Wallace, did not have to tell the court what his decision was but it spoke volumes that he would not.

Mr Shatter brought the appeal against the data commissioner’s decision on a complaint by Mr Wallace after Mr Shatter last year told PrimeTime that Wallace had been cautioned by gardaí for using a mobile phone while driving.

Judge Linnane reserved her judgment on the appeal.


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