*John Mountaine. Photograph: John Mangan

THE PARTNER of Clare TD, Violet Anne Wynne (IND) is continuing to break the law by driving around unaccompanied.

That is according to Judge Alec Gabbett who said that he is to convict provisional licence holder, John Mountaine (41) of holding a mobile phone while driving, driving unaccompanied and driving without an L plate at Lack West, Kilmihil, Co Clare.

Mr Mountaine was on a call to Deputy Wynne at Leinster House during a ‘pre-school run’ for two of the couple’s children on October 21st 2021 when he was spotted by Garda Patrick Hanley holding a mobile phone up to his ear while driving.

In the contested case at Kilrush District Court this week, Mr Mountaine – formerly of Pella Rd, Kilrush – said that he had no need to use the phone and was on Bluetooth speaking to his partner.

Garda Hanley told the court that Mr Mountaine “had the mobile phone up to his ear – 100pc”.

Garda Hanley said that he had never come across Mr Mountaine before that date.

Judge Gabbett said that Mr Mountaine “by his admission is continuing to break the law by driving around unaccompanied. He has reasons for that but that doesn’t make them valid”.

Judge Gabbett said that Mr Mountaine has a peculiar set of circumstances where he has six children, his partner works in Dublin for a significant portion of the week and he has to drive.

Sgt Louis Moloney told the court on Tuesday that Mr Mountaine has 20 previous convictions mainly for road traffic.

Mr Mountaine told the court that he has been harassed by Gardai since his partner’s election as a TD in February 2020.

Mr Mountaine said that he didn’t hand in his provisional licence within 10 days to his local station in October 2021 “because of the harassment I have been getting off the Gardai in the station – not all of them now. Some of them are lovely, they really are”.

However, in response to Mountaine’s Garda harassment claim, Judge Gabbett said that the reason Mr Mountaine may be getting attention from Gardai is that they know that he is driving unaccompanied which is an ongoing offence.

He said, “That is likely why the Gardai are paying attention to this man- it doesn’t seem to me to be a campaign”.

Judge Gabbett said, “He said himself in his own evidence that he is going to continue to drive despite it being an offence. He knowingly drives unaccompanied despite there being a law in place that he can’t and that seems to be the reason possibly why he is getting the attention he is getting”.

In response to Mr Mountaine’s harassment claim, Sgt Moloney told Judge Gabbett “I don’t want this case to be used as a vehicle in order to have multiple cheap shots at Gardai who are doing their duty”.

In reply, Mr Mountaine said, “I would never do that.”

In evidence, Garda Hanley said that Deputy Wynne was on speaker phone in the car and not on Bluetooth as claimed by Mr Mountaine.

In evidence, former Sinn Fein TD, Deputy Wynne said that she asked on the date could discretion be used in relation to Gardai not seizing the car.

Garda Hanley said that he decided not to seize the car as he didn’t want to leave two small children at the side of the road.

Introducing herself to the court as ‘Deputy Violet Anne Wynne’, in evidence, Deputy Wynne said that she stayed on the line to find out why Gardaí were pulling Mr Mountain over.

Judge Gabbett said that he would adjourn finalisation of the case until September as he wants Mr Mountaine to obtain a full licence before then.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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