Opinion: The curious case of Clare Daly and the Road Traffic Act

Is there an ongoing bias in the application of the law in Ireland?

Clare Daly, Ireland, TD

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rolling ews

At first glance it may seem the issuing of a bench warrant for the arrest of TD Clare Daly, in relation to an alleged road traffic offence, is an indication of the law simply operating as it should – without fear or favour.

Notwithstanding the scandalous removal of penalty points by numerous members of the force for favoured individuals in the past, there is, sadly, ongoing bias in the application of the law. One particular example of this is of acute relevance in relation to TDs, like Clare Daly.

The Dáil is situated on Kildare Street, part of which has recently reverted from being a one-way street, to accommodating traffic in both directions. The two-way portion ends about half-way down, with a mandatory left turn onto Molesworth Street.

On a number of occasions, I have personally witnessed drivers entering Leinster House by making an illegal right turn at these lights. This is to save them driving an extra minute onto Nassau Street and back around.

Of course, this illegal manoeuvre must be made directly in front of the Gardaí, who stand watch at the gates of Leinster House.) Now if I were to make an illegal right turn (and I have done), I would be stopped (and I have been), and probably aggressively berated (and I have been), or perhaps issued with a penalty (I also have been). Or perhaps searched (this has also happened).

Recently, I was stopped at a checkpoint with another Dublin writer (Karl Parkinson, author of The Blocks), and photographed without my consent. Perhaps this is due to my past, or my family's past. But, of course, serving members of our Oireachtas have been convicted of criminality, yet the Gardaí do not even reprimand the TDs who commit an offense by making this manoeuvre, holding up other motorists while they wait for a break in oncoming traffic to take an illegal right turn.

This is a silly little matter though isn’t it? Not of great importance, surely?

But given the massive publicity surrounding Garda corruption – in particular about its relation to our elected representatives – what does it say that TDs feel comfortable fragrantly breaking the law in public like this? What does it say that Gardaí feel comfortable letting them? And what does it say that one of the most vociferous critics of Gardaí in the Dáil has had the full force of the law applied, and not for the first time, when she is accused of committing traffic offences?

The law means nothing if it is not applied equally. This is not the case in Ireland today. Has it ever been? It is time we start asking more serious questions.