Details of alleged abuses of the penalty points system are now almost certain to be made public, with the garda whistleblower likely to formally request a transcript of his meeting on Thursday with the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee.
The PAC was last night expecting a request from Sergeant Maurice McCabe following his three-hour, private testimony on what he claims is the loss of millions of euro of State money through a failure to properly implement the system.
He is seeking a transcript of the evidence he gave to the group of 13 TDs, which sources say demonstrated a greater problem than was indicated by the internal Garda report published last year.
Committee members agreed at the end of Thursday’s meeting they would meet again to consider any request from Mr McCabe to access the transcript of the meeting.
A number of TDs are opposed to such a move, believing that if the information is made public, it could put his position at risk.
“If you do start hearing whistleblowers, you do have a responsibility to protect them,” one member said.
However, the majority of members, including chairman John McGuinness, said that once he requests the transcripts, he is entitled to receive them. He would then be free to publish the document following consultation with his legal team over whether it leaves him open to disciplinary or other legal action.
If the transcript comes into the public domain, it could prove embarrassing for Garda management because it would outline claims that points were routinely terminated, with repeat offenders having their points cancelled.
Manwhile, Justice Minister Alan Shatter has described the PAC’s behind-closed-doors meeting with Mr McCabe as “a curious procedure”.
Asked by Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ if he thought there was “any harm” in Mr McCabe’s appearance before the committee, Mr Shatter said: “I don’t know,” adding “I don’t know to what extent what he said was tested.”
Because of the ongoing controversy over the issue and “the rolling nature of allegations made”, it is appropriate that the Garda Ombudsman Commission is left to deal with the matter, he said.
Asked his views on Mr McCabe’s claim that 300 Garda cars could have been purchased with the money lost through cancellations of notices, as reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, Mr Shatter said it “makes a great headline” but is “more complex than that”.
He said: “That’s the problem with the whole procedure, it’s a private procedure. Bits of it apparently are being reported and leaked. I don’t know the context in which he said that.
“If anyone had read the report prepared by assistant commissioner John O’Mahony, here is a broad range of circumstances in which penalty points were cancelled, where it’s absolutely appropriate they be cancelled.
“The problem is that initially, the allegations were such that all cancellations in all circumstances of penalty points were supposed to be wrong. That isn’t true.
“The reality now is that it has gone to the Ombudsman Commission, I hope they do a very thorough job in examining all of this and that we can bring this issue to an end with public confidence that it is being fully addressed with no further question marks arising.”
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