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'A source of deep regret': Barry Cowen apologises to Dáil over drink driving ban

The Agriculture Minister served a three-month driving ban in 2016 after being caught drink-driving.

Image: Oireachtas TV

Updated Jul 7th 2020, 9:14 PM

FIANNA FÁIL TD Barry Cowen has told the Dáil he is “profoundly sorry” over a driving ban he received for drink driving, and said his actions are a “source of deep regret”.

In a statement in the Dáil this evening, Cowen said: “Formally on the record of this house, I sincerely, as I said earlier, want to apologise to my peers and my colleges.

“It is a source of deep regret. My actions have reflected poorly on the work of elected representatives and on my part.”

The Agriculture Minister served a three-month driving ban in 2016 after being found by gardaí to be drink-driving after attending the All-Ireland football final. 

Cowen was also driving on a provisional licence at the time.

Over the weekend, he said that he was “embarassed” and “humiliated” over the driving ban he received for drink driving, and has described it as a “terribly stupid, stupid mistake” that he regrets.

Addressing the Dáil this evening, Cowen said: “My decision in September 2016 to drive home after consuming any alcohol was a stupid, stupid mistake. It never happened before 18 September 2016 and it has never happened since.

It was a mistake for which I am profoundly sorry. 
The emergence of this issue into the public domain has put an intense spotlight on me, and on the shame, more importantly, the shame of drink driving. 
The criticism that I have attracted for such a serious lack and lapse of judgment is fully deserved. This grave error, my subsequent humiliation, will hopefully serve to highlight the terrible dangers and consequences of drink driving.

Cowen said he has “apologised to my family, to the Taoiseach, the government, to my constituents, and to the general public”.

He added that he has spoken to a number of road safety advocacy groups and has offered his apology. 

Earlier today, Taoiseach Micheal Martin insisted no politician is above the law.

Labour leader Alan Kelly also called on Cowen to tell the Dáil whether he had ever driven without a driving licence.

Martin said: “No politician is above the law and no politician should be above the law. In respect of Mr Cowen, you will note that punishment was meted out in respect of his transgression four years ago.”

RISE TD Paul Murphy said the fact that Cowen was permitted to make a statement to the Dáil without having to take questions from opposition leaders was not right.

“This is the first test of the government and whether they’re going to use their majority to say there won’t be any questions and we’ll just make a statement and that will be the end of it.”

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghail said Cowen had made a request to him in accordance with standing orders to make a personal explanation to the Dáil.

“This request specifically precludes debate. This is not unprecedented in the history of the chamber and numerous statements have been made in this way. That has been chosen by Deputy Cowen, it is accepted by me and that is the end of that matter.”

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Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, Labour along with some independents voted down the attempt by Murphy to allow time for questions after Cowen’s Dail statement.

More to follow…

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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