herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

TDs still making calls to gardai, claims Sargent

COMMON: Deputies tell me they do it all the time

FORMER Minister Trevor Sargent says other TDs are frequently making representations to gardai but that they make non-traceable phone calls.

He has alleged that other TDs have told him that they communicate verbally with gardai so that there is no record of their interference -- and he's noted that if he had done likewise he would still be Food Minister.

Mr Sargent resigned last weekend after the Herald published details of a letter in which he told a garda his attempts to prosecute a constituent were "wholly inappropriate".

The Dublin North Green Party TD quickly admitted that his actions were unlawful but says he didn't realise that at the time of writing in June 2008.

He has now told his local newspaper that if he had known about the law against communicating with gardai, he would have made a call instead of writing on State-headed paper.

"Why would I have knowingly written a letter? If I had known that was the law, surely I would have picked up the phone and tried to make a call which is not traceable.

"In fact, that's what other TDs have told me is quite common," he says in an interview with the Fingal Independent.

However, he added: "But if they [other TDs] are under any illusion that that's legal, they'd want to learn pretty quickly.

"The legislation doesn't say 'don't write to a guard', it says don't communicate. That includes phone calls."

Mr Sargent added: "It took me a long time to get to sleep on Tuesday night when I got home late. It was probably the adrenaline. I hadn't eaten all day. I weighed myself the next morning -- I lost 5lbs that day."

He reiterated that he wrote the letters in good faith because a constituent had sought help.

In the letter he outlined how he found it "shocking" that gardai in Balbriggan wanted to prosecute Dominic McGowan for threatening behaviour.

Mr McGowan was subsequently convicted and fined €500 for the offence, but Mr Sargent says: "Here was somebody suffering and the genesis of that assault indicated to me that the person was traumatised as well as hurting and emotionally drained by the experience."

Speaking about the fact that he resigned within hours of the Herald hitting the streets, he said: "I had to consider what was right for me, what was right for Dublin North and for the people who depend on me, principally constituents.

"I though the most appropriate thing was to resign as minister and then just see would the people of Dublin north still want me to continue in light of that."

kdoyle@herald.ie

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