An Irish politician has been caught up in a privilege row with Justice Minister Alan Shatter after naming rugby star Ronan O’Gara and crime reporter Paul Williams as recipients of police favors.
Shatter branded Independent deputy Joan Collins a ‘disgrace’ after she claimed in the Dublin parliament that both Williams and O’Gara had driving offences quashed by ‘friendly’ police.
The two celebrities are the latest high profile figures to be named in the parliament for having penalty points cancelled by members of the Irish police force.
The Irish Independent newspaper says that police bosses are currently investigating claims by a disgruntled sergeant that thousands of penalty points for road traffic offences have been cancelled on appeal to a superintendent.
Collins used her parliamentary privileges to name the Ireland star and Williams as being among the motorists who had penalty points written off.
Now she has been accused of abusing privilege, which protects against being sued for remarks made in the chamber.
Justice Minister Shatter said: “It is a total disgrace for people to be named and shamed in the House.
“It was wrong to imply that anyone who had penalty points cancelled was getting special treatment.”
Shatter also told the parliament that there were only 197 allegations made in relation to 1.46 million penalty points applied via ‘fixed charge notices’ over the past three-and-a-half years.
He added: “From the interim report I received, I have noted that some of the cancellations of fixed-charge notices relate to ordinary individuals who are not VIPs.
“Some of the people had penalty points written off because they were not the owner of the car identified by the speed camera.
“There have been other instances, including one in which a young child was being taken to hospital in an emergency.”
The report says a superintendent has the power to cancel points if he receives an appeal in writing, outlining the grounds why the offender feels the points should not be applied.
Shatter also warned deputies not to assume all cancellations were inappropriate.
In response the Wexford deputy Mick Wallace complained that the authorities had given ‘no protection’ to the police whistleblowers who had come forward with allegations of 100,000 cases of penalty points being written off and raised concerns of a ‘cover-up’.
Shatter dismissed the concerns and said: “There will be no special treatment because they are celebrity or pal of someone. Under my watch, the law will be applied.”