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Irish minister Barry Cowen sacked amid drink-drive row

UK News | Published:

The Agriculture Minister had faced criticism over recent days over revelations he was found to be drink-driving in September 2016.

Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen has been sacked.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin made the announcement in the Dail parliament in Dublin on Tuesday night.

Mr Cowen had faced criticism over recent days over revelations he was found to be drink-driving in September 2016.

He was stopped by police on his way home to the midlands from a Dublin sporting event.

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin (Julien Behal/PA)

It was formed last month between leading parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, with the support of the Green Party.

Mr Cowen is a brother of former Irish premier Brian Cowen and is part of a long-running Fianna Fail dynasty based in Co Offaly.

Barry Cowen has previously held frontbench spokesman roles on Environment and Local Government and Social Protection.

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Mr Martin said: “The president (Michael D Higgins), on my advice, this evening terminated the appointment of deputy Barry Cowen as a member of the Government.

“This is a very sad day for Barry, his family and for me.

“He has been a very committed public representative, very diligent and very dedicated.

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“Over the course of the last 10 days he has been the subject of significant criticism and condemnation for a road traffic offence that took place in 2016.

“He has been completely clear and unambiguous regarding his drink-driving offence.

“He gave a personal statement to this house on July 7 in which he talked about the stupidity of his actions, he accepted that what he did was absolutely wrong and he apologised to all members.”

Mr Cowen was stopped at a police checkpoint and breathalysed on his way home to Co Offaly after an All-Ireland football final in Dublin and found to be over the limit.

At the time he was holding a legal driving permit because his provisional licence had lapsed.

He was fined 200 euros and given a three-month driving ban.

Mr Cowen said he was “surprised and disappointed” at the Taoiseach’s decision to sack him.

He added: “Unfortunately the decision of the Taoiseach to remove me from office, when he supported me this afternoon in the Dail, has undermined and potentially prejudiced my entitlement to fair process.”

Mr Cowen “adamantly denies” evading or attempting to evade a checkpoint on the night he was found to be drink-driving and believes the Garda record is inaccurate.

The allegations were made following an apparent disclosure of information by a member of the Garda.

The Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has referred the matter to the Ombudsman watchdog and the matter is now under investigation.

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