Belfast Telegraph

Frances Fitzgerald under pressure over Garda traffic convictions scandal

Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald is coming under pressure over the latest Garda scandal involving almost 15,000 wrongful road traffic convictions.

Fianna Fail said Ms Fitzgerald needed to spell out exactly when she was informed about the litany of errors announced by the Garda.

Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan called for an urgent statement.

He said: "She needs to explain what discussions she has had with the Garda commissioner on these matters, and she needs to spell out to the Irish people what exactly is her understanding of how these errors occurred and who is responsible.

"My party and I are concerned that the manner of yesterday's announcement and the lack of a coherent explanation from any quarter points to a lack of understanding of how serious this situation now is.

"We need to see the minister take the initiative and come forward immediately with her account of what has happened."

Following the review of breath-testing, the issuing of fines and summonses, the Garda said 14,700 drivers, mostly for not displaying tax and Insurance discs, have been taken to court without being given an opportunity to pay a penalty.

Those prosecutions are being appealed.

Ms Fitzgerald told RTE the scale of the latest garda scandal was "appalling and staggering".

Meanwhile, the Policing Authority has appointed an Assistant Commissioner of the Garda for the first time.

Detective chief superintendent Michael O'Sullivan's promotion is the first senior appointment by an independent civilian body.

Authority chair Josephine Feehily said: " The cultural significance of de-politicising senior Garda appointments and the organisational impact of candidates having to send a promotion application to the Authority rather than the Garda Commissioner or Garda HQ should not be underestimated."

Assistant Commissioner O'Sullivan has 36 years policing experience in Ireland and abroad with the European Union, the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

More recently, he held responsibility for state security.

Ms Fitzgerald said: "I have made it clear to the Commissioner that the practices that allowed this misreporting to happen within An Garda Siochana over many years need to be fully addressed and the new systems that she has put in place will need to be robust, tested and verified in the time ahead."

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