Garda Commissioner seeks penalty points evidence given to PAC by whistleblower

Thursday 21 November 2013 17.38
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Martin Callinan is due to appear before the PAC on 23 January
Martin Callinan is due to appear before the PAC on 23 January
Independent TD Clare Daly questioned the Garda Commissioner's judgement
Independent TD Clare Daly questioned the Garda Commissioner's judgement

The Public Accounts Committee has been addressing calls from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to hand over a box of evidence, provided by a whistleblower, alleging abuse of the penalty points system.

The Clerk of the Public Accounts Committee explained that the committee has the documentation.

However, given the sensitivities in relation to it, the PAC agreed to forward the documents to the committee's legal advisor.

The committee is awaiting the completion of the legal advice on the evidence.

The clerk said that no member of the committee has the records or has seen them, and they are in the possession of the parliamentary legal advisor.

The PAC is to formally contact the Garda Commissioner and the Data Protection Commissioner today to update them.

Commissioner Callinan is due to appear before the committee on 23 January.

PAC Chairperson John McGuinness said it was agreed by the committee that the material would be sent forward for legal advice.

He said at the time the PAC took the information from the whistleblower it was made clear that the committee is only interested in the systems failure and the loss of money to the State.

He said the committee acted upon the information following a previous report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, on the same type of issue.

He said the information is above and beyond what was contained in that report, and because of the nature of the information it was decided to get legal advice.

Independent TD Clare Daly said the evidence should not be handed over to the Garda Commissioner.

Ms Daly said she believed the information was lawfully given to politicians under the Garda Síochána Act.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, she said Commissioner Callinan had at every stage sought to minimise findings and trivialise information in relation to investigations into the penalty points issue.

Ms Daly said there were a number of issues which had brought the judgement of the Garda Commissioner into question.

She said the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission had legitimate concerns and had a role to examine the gardaí.

However, she said she believed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is standing fully behind the Garda Commissioner, but not behind the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Independent TD Shane Ross said the committee should be careful that it is not keeping information private that should be in the public domain.

Mr McGuinness said the information may be handed to the C&AG but that will depend on the legal advice.

Mr McCarthy said that "this is a classic pass the parcel" situation.

He said that he does not have the power to investigate any allegations of illegality or wrongdoing and he did not do that in a previous report into this issue.

Mr McGuinness asked if the PAC should give the information to the C&AG to examine and bring forward a report based on an extension of the C&AG's existing report.

The PAC will now await the outcome of legal advice before deciding how to proceed.