Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter is hanging onto his job as a drink driving controversy threatens his political future.
The Fine Gael deputy faces a vote of no confidence, tabled by Fianna Fail, in the Irish parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Opposition deputies claim Shatter’s position is under serious threat after reports he failed to complete a breath test when stopped by police four years ago.
The Minister, who was travelling home from parliament at the time, said asthma led to the failure. He also said he was waved on by officers but reports have emerged of an official report which may contradict his account of the incident.
Opponents have demanded that Shatter ask police if there is any information on his own case - either on file or verbal.
The case has gained momentum as it follows claims from Shatter in parliament about a case involving independent deputy Mick Wallace who escaped prosecution after driving while talking on a mobile phone.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny told the Irish Independent that ‘hasn’t spoken to Minister Shatter yet’.
But he added that he was ‘advised that the minister made two attempts to complete the mandatory breath test ‘but as an asthmatic he was unable to do so’.
PM Kenny also said that the Government would ‘strongly defend’ Shatter’s record.
A government source told the paper: “Minister Shatter’s position is stable unless a report emerges conflicting with his version of events.
“If that is contradicted, the original point about Wallace will pale into insignificance. That’s a whole different ballgame. But someone would have to prove that. If something pops up, then it would have to be evaluated.”
Independent deputy Mattie McGrath first brought Shatter’s breath test failure to light in the Irish parliament.
Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins told the paper that Minister Shatter had displayed arrogance and his position was no longer tenable after a string of cases where he showed poor judgment.
Collins said: “Minister Shatter’s behaviour last week was frankly a disgrace. It was made even worse yesterday when it was confirmed that Minister Shatter decided to keep his own encounter at a garda (police) checkpoint under cover.
“This showed considerable hypocrisy from a minister who seems to be determined to isolate every group he has dealings with. Morale in the Garda Siochana (police) has never been so low,” he said.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn claimed the controversy had been ‘blown out of all proportion’.
Quinn said: “The suggestion that there is a sort of Big Brother scrutiny, that the Minister for Justice is looking after and probing into the details of people’s private lives and their behaviour is exaggerated from what I understand.
“Minister Shatter has set out the most reformative agenda for the legal system in this country in the past 200 years and the Government look forward indeed to dealing with the motion of no confidence when it comes next week”
Happy Earth Day! Ireland sure looks gorgeous from outer space