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Garda chief drops legal threat

Garda chief Martin Callinan has dropped threatened legal action against a powerful parliamentary watchdog over the penalty points controversy.

Amid fears the force was headed for an unprecedented showdown with the Oireachtas, Mr Callinan warned he was taking legal advice about the Public Accounts Committee's plans to hear evidence from a whistleblower.

But the Garda Commissioner has withdrawn the threat after the Dail public spending watchdog agreed to hear claims from the whistleblower tomorrow behind closed doors.

"While I continue to have reservations about this matter, I note that the meeting will be held in private," he said.

"I note too that it appears to be the intention to confine the questioning of the person concerned and, in particular, that person will not be able to make allegations against his colleagues or members of the public.

"Despite my reservations, I believe that, in all circumstances, it would not be in the public interest for An Garda Siochana to pursue the question of legal proceedings against an Oireachtas Committee."

Mr Callinan said the consequences of any legal action, were it successful, would have ramifications well beyond the ongoing penalty points fall-out.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has ordered the Garda Ombudsman - the force's official watchdog - to investigate claims senior officers were involved in routinely and corruptly wiping fixed penalty notices for motoring offenders.

Mr Callinan vowed the force would fully co-operate with the inquiry.

Serving Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe is to give evidence of alleged wrongdoing within the ranks of the force to TDs at a private sitting of the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow.

A public hearing last week was told of fresh claims that m ore than 200 senior Garda officers inappropriately - and in most cases corruptly - wiped penalty points from driving licences.

The whistleblower - with around 30 years' experience - told TDs that his life, career and family have been destroyed by the scandal.

The row escalated as Mr Callinan branded the claims disgusting and concerns were raised that the parliamentary body was overstepping its remit.

Earlier this week, Mr Shatter stepped in to refer the controversy to the Garda Ombudsman as a matter of public interest.

The Justice Minister claimed he did not have the power to take the unusual step until it had become political.

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