Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Shatter explains breath test fail

Mattie McGrath, pictured, said he was raising questions about Alan Shatter's alleged behaviour at a Garda checkpoint in the public interest
Mattie McGrath, pictured, said he was raising questions about Alan Shatter's alleged behaviour at a Garda checkpoint in the public interest

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said he failed to give a breath test at a Garda checkpoint several years ago because he is asthmatic.

The minister had been challenged to account for his behaviour after Independent TD Mattie McGrath claimed he had been stopped in late February or early March 2011. "No such event occurred at the time stated," he said.

The questions were raised days after Mr Shatter refused to resign after revealing on television that Independent TD Mick Wallace had escaped prosecution for driving while using a mobile phone.

In a statement dealing with questions raised by Mr McGrath, the minister rejected claims that he had been stopped around the time of the last general election but that there was an incident at a checkpoint in 2009 or late 2008 when he was stopped at night by gardai on Pembroke Street, Dublin.

"There was a queue of motorists and when I was reached, like those before me, my road tax and insurance discs were checked and I was asked to exhale into a breathalyser. I did so but failed to fully complete the task due to my being asthmatic," he said. "I explained this to the garda. I also explained that I was on my way home from Dail Eireann and that I had consumed no alcohol of any nature that day."

Mr Shatter said he was waved on through the checkpoint after two gardai discussed the issue at the roadside. "There was no question of my having consumed any alcohol, nor of my having committed any offence," the minister said.

Mr McGrath had earlier called on the Government to account for Mr Shatter's behaviour towards gardai at a checkpoint in 2011. The Independent TD from Tipperary claimed he was raising the issue on the same basis that the minister had divulged on TV that Mick Wallace TD had been stopped while driving and using a mobile phone but not prosecuted.

Mr Shatter and Mr Wallace have repeatedly clashed over whether gardai should be allowed to use their discretion in quashing minor motoring offences or fixed charges.

The minister, under pressure to resign after revealing the information on Mr Wallace, went on to give further details of a separate occasion when he was stopped by a garda. He had been driving in a bus lane on Ormond Quay in Dublin several years ago at about 11.30am.

"A garda on a motorbike stopped by my car and directed me to roll down my window and informed me I should not be in a bus lane," he said. "I explained that the signage detailed that all vehicles could travel in it between 10am and 12 noon. No more was said and he moved on."

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