Taoiseach says Cowen remorse for ‘regrettable’ drink-driving incident is genuine

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that he believes Barry Cowen’s remorse over drink-driving home from a football game is genuine.
Taoiseach says Cowen remorse for ‘regrettable’ drink-driving incident is genuine
Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen arriving for the Cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen arriving for the Cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that he believes Barry Cowen’s remorse over drink-driving home from a football game is genuine.

The newly-appointed Agriculture Minister acknowledged it was a serious lapse of judgment.

Mr Cowen said he was embarrassed after it emerged last week that he was barred from driving for three months in 2016 after he was found to be drink-driving.

He was on a provisional driving licence when he was stopped at a checkpoint and breathalysed on his way home to Co Offaly after an All-Ireland football final in Dublin.

Mr Cowen is expected to make a statement in the Dáil on Tuesday evening addressing the controversy around his drink driving offence.

Speaking at a post-cabinet briefing in Dublin on Monday Mr Martin said Mr Cowen has expressed his regret at what has happened and says his remorse about the incident is genuine.

He said: “He has articulated his profound regret, sorrow and shame at what transpired four years ago.

“I became aware of this on Friday.

“It is deeply, deeply regrettable and should not have happened.”

“Historically people have availed of the temporary licence regime in Ireland, I’m not excusing it but I believe his remorse is genuine and he will be making a statement to the Dáil in relation to it.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (centre) alongside Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (left) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (right) during a media briefing following the first cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Taoiseach Micheal Martin (centre) alongside Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (left) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (right) during a media briefing following the first cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Earlier, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said what Mr Cowen did was wrong, but added she has accepted his apology.

Ms McEntee, who was visiting Slane Garda station in Co Meath where she held a meeting with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, said the incident “shouldn’t have happened”.

She added that the focus of the new Government should be on road victims and their families.

“What happened was wrong.

“It shouldn’t have happened and I think the minister has acknowledged what he did was wrong and I think what’s important at the time is that the law was applied,” Ms McEntee added.

“Obviously what was given out to the minister, he accepted it and took that as he should have.

“I think we need to focus on victims, those who have lost family members due to drink-driving, making sure that we have measures in place that protect people, that make our roads as safe as possible.

“Obviously there was a huge amount of changes implemented in the last government and we want to continue to implement them.

“I don’t agree with what happened, he has apologised, I accept that and I think it’s important that the law was applied.” The Taoiseach said he did not know until Friday about the Fianna Fáil deputy’s record and was disappointed that he had not been told about it before then.

Mr Cowen, who was appointed minister as part of the coalition deal to form the new government, said over the weekend: “Maybe I should have stood up in the Dáil, and led from the front and acknowledged my stupid mistake.

“I was not trying to keep it secret, I was trying to get on with my job.”

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said the key issue is that Mr Cowen was driving under the influence of alcohol, not that he was on a learner’s permit.

He said: “The issue is driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“It is a very very serious issue.

“We have had many events outside the gates of Leinster House where families who lost loved ones to drunk drivers have raised the need for tougher measures.

“I do think a statement to the Dáil is the right thing to do and obviously we need to listen very carefully to that statement and judge it by its content.”

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