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Barry Cowen disputes 'incorrect' Garda report of what happened at drink-driving checkpoint in 2016

“I did not evade, or attempt to evade, a Garda,” a statement from Cowen said.

Image: RollingNews.ie

EMBATTLED AGRICULTURE MINISTER Barry Cowen has issued a statement addressing a Sunday Times story that claims a Garda report records him as doing a U-turn at a Garda checkpoint in 2016 – something he vehemently denies.

Cowen has been embroiled in a revelation that he was banned from driving for three months in 2016 after being over the drink-driving limit while on a provisional licence.

He has apologised for his actions in the Dáil, calling it a “terribly stupid, stupid mistake” for which he is “profoundly sorry”.

The Sunday Times story reports that Cowen disputes the accuracy of a Garda report of the incident, which alleges he performed – or attempted to perform – a U-turn after approaching a Garda checkpoint where he tested over the drink-driving limit.

The author of the Sunday Times story, John Mooney, said on Twitter that they didn’t publish the information last week “due to legal threats”.

In response to the story, Cowen has released the following statement to the media:

The Sunday Times has today published an article referring to an incorrect Garda record dealing with the incident which occurred on 18 September 2016 despite the fact that my solicitors wrote to the newspaper in advance of publication.

I did not evade, or attempt to evade, a Garda. Such an act would constitute a serious criminal offence and I was not charged with such an offence. On being informed of its existence I sought a copy of this incorrect record and am taking steps under the Data Protection Act to have it corrected.

“This incorrect Garda record can only have come into the possession of the newspaper through a criminal act.

“It is a criminal offence for a member of An Garda Síochána to disclose any information obtained in the course of his or her duties. I am informed that An Garda Síochána has commenced a criminal investigation into the source of this leak.”

It is obvious that the disclosure of this information at this time, in flagrant breach of the criminal law and my rights under data protection law, is a disgraceful attempt to cause me the maximum personal and political harm.

The Sunday Independent is reporting that a Garda investigation has begun into whether information was leaked about Cowen’s drink-driving incident. In a statement to TheJournal.ie about the story, Gardaí said:

“An Garda Síochána is conducting a preliminary examination to ascertain if an investigation should be conducted into whether a third party had access to personal data held by the organisation in relation to an individual.”

In an updated statement, Gardaí said: “As Minister Cowen’s statement constitutes a complaint against a member or members of An Garda Síochána, the Commissioner will be referring the matter to GSOC [the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission] for its consideration.”

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a GSOC spokesperson said that it had received “a number of media inquiries about a matter involving a Government minister which has been widely reported upon in the media in recent days”.

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“GSOC has to date received no referral, complaint or notification from the Garda Síochána in relation to this matter,” it said, sent after 3pm this afternoon.

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