THE controversy over TDs allegedly having penalty points scrapped took another turn this week when a newspaper stated that local Fianna Fail deputy Seamus Kirk had said points could be quashed by just phoning the gardai.
“Just a matter of lifting phone to get points quashed” was the heading in the Irish Examiner and “Former ceann comhairle cannot rule out having used TD exemption” was the sub headline.
But Deputy Kirk who has represented Louth since 1982 said the quotes were taken out of context.
The story by the Irish Examiner Political Reporter Juno McEnroe quoted Deputy Kirk as saying: “Years ago, I had minor traffic issues. I wouldn’t be in the business of just having them quashed. If I’m on my way to the Houses for a vote, it’s a differentmatter. I don’t remember. That’s not to say that I didn’t have any (quashed).
“The normal thing if I did, the procedure would be to notify people who impose the penalty points that were imposed on the way to Leinster House.
“At this time and point I can’t remember. That’s not saying I didn’t notify the penalty points imposition officer, that is whoever was dealing with penalty points.”
However, speaking to this paper Deputy Kirk said he felt his quotes had been taken out of context.
“A questionnaire was sent out by the Irish Examiner,” deputy Kirk said. “I didn’t reply because I didn’t have any (points). Then I got a call from the political reporter Juno McEnroe wanting to know why I hadn’t reply.
“I explained that if I did incur penalty points on my way to vote in the House, I myself or my office would contact the gardai and state I was a member of the Dail and I had to meet a roll call. Then it would be up to the gardai to decide the issue.
“There were good reasons for introducing this procedure. If a vote was won or lost it could have major repercussions.”
Deputy Kirk said the exemption was there not to create any kind of political elitism but to prevent “someone who might try to hold up the political process”.
However Mr McEnroe stood over his story which was part of an major investigation on the points issue.
“We stand by the quotes in our story,” he said. “He (Deputy Kirk) needs to be clear on whether he asked for points to be quashed or not.
“This is a story of interest to the public and the gardai. Deputy Kirk was sent a questionaire and was then contacted by phone and we quoted accurately what he said.”