My question was, and still is, very simple. “Was the minister fined and if so, by how much?”
My last contact with DCC on that occasion was with Mr. Pat Cronin, head of waste management. He refused to answer my question, insisting that I put my case in writing and he would deal with it further.
On 24th April I wrote to Mr. Cronin by registered post. Despite several phone calls since I have not even being able to confirm if Mr. Cronin received my letter.
However, on the 22nd of May I did have another conversation with the public servant who first refused to divulge information on the matter. The conversation is worth posting as it gives a good idea of how things are done in our banana republic.
Me: I want to know, was the minister fined?
Public Servant: Why him in particular?
Me: Because he’s a government minister who deliberately set out to break the law
PS: How do you know he deliberately set out to break the law?
Me: Because you confirmed it to me when I last spoke to you and through the media
PS: I didn’t, I never used that word, let’s get something clear here; I never said to you that he deliberately set out to break the law
Me: OK, he has said himself that he did it, it’s in the papers
PS: No, he didn’t say he deliberately set out to break the law, he did put up the posters
Me: And the posters were illegal, so, did he put them up accidentally?
Me: Did he? (In astonishment)
PS: Yes, he didn’t know that they don’t have the strict regulations in Donegal that we have here
Me: (Still astonished) Hold on, are you telling me, are you confirming to me that the minister didn’t know he was breaking the law?
PS: That’s right, I am
Me: Did he tell you that?
PS: Yes, I was talking to him. He apologised profusely (“I honestly, genuinely did not know that I was breaking the law”). You see, you cannot put up posters in Dublin city but if you go across the road to Fingal, you know, when you cross the border, you can put up the posters
Me: No, you’re probably not familiar with the Litter Pollution Act, 1997, but I am
PS: Excuse me, I am, I work on it
Me: Ok, you should know so that’s it’s illegal to put up posters without permission, full stop, the LPA 1997 covers the whole country
PS: I understand, yes
Me: But what you’re saying is that it applies in some places
PS: I said, other local authorities are not as strict as we are
Me: I’m not concerned about strict or not strict. I’m concerned about breaking the law, especially when a government minister breaks the law
PS: I’m not defending Pat the Cope Gallagher, it’s not my job; he’s well able to do it himself.
Me: A couple of days after the minister ‘accidentally’ broke the law, he was given back the posters intact and he put them up again in Donegal. He broke the law again in Donegal. Now, we have to assume that he knew he was breaking the law in Donegal
PS: I’m not commentating on that
Me: There’s another thing I need to find out. You and Pat Cronin have refused to tell me if you have taken action against the minister.
PS: We don’t discuss anybody’s business
Me: But what I want to know is; are you basing your refusal on legislation/regulation?
PS: I’m basing it on office policy
Me: I don’t accept that. I’m a member of the public; this is a government minister who has broken the law. I have a right to know, you’re telling me I don’t have a right to know.
PS: I’m not telling you that, I’m telling you I’m not telling you.
Me: Are you entitled to refuse me the information
Me: By what law/regulation?
PS: On the grounds that I’m the manager of this office and I do not discuss anybody’s business with anybody else
Me: Are you absolutely sure, on a personal basis, that you’re not breaking any public service regulations by refusing me the information?
PS: I am quite happy in not giving out information, I never give out information. If Pat Cronin wants to answer you he’s quite entitled to. I’m happy in the decision I’ve made, that’s my answer to you.
I am in the process of taking further action regarding the refusal of DCC staff to answer my questions and I will post on the matter as things develop.
In the meantime I have taken the following actions regarding Gallagher’s illegal activities:
Submitted a formal complaint to DCC regarding Gallagher’s breach of the Litter Pollution Act, 1997.
Submitted a formal complaint to Donegal County Council regarding Gallagher’s breach of the Litter Pollution Act, 1997, in that part of the country. I will be writing on this particular saga soon.
Submitted an official complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission regarding Gallagher’s breach of the Litter Pollution Act, 1997.
My complaint to SIPO is made on the basis that the minister is in serious breach of the Code of Conduct for Office Holders as outlined by the Standards in Office Commission (Office Holders) Sections:
1.3 Requirement to observe the Code of Conduct.
1.4 Principles of Ethical Conduct.
1.5 Highest ethical standards to be applied at all times.