Road victims group says Cowen has more questions to answer

Road traffic victims groups say the Taoiseach should instruct Barry Cowen to give full details of his driving history.
Road victims group says Cowen has more questions to answer
Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen, seen here arriving for the Cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle, is still facing questions over his driving record.
Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen, seen here arriving for the Cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle, is still facing questions over his driving record.

Road traffic victims groups say the Taoiseach should instruct Barry Cowen to give full details of his driving history.

The embattled Agriculture Minister was caught drink-driving after he was stopped at a garda checkpoint in 2016 on his way home to Offaly having attended the All-Ireland Football final in Dublin.

Mr Cowen received a €200 fine and was disqualified from driving for three months. It has since emerged that he had also received a speeding fine previously and held a provisional license before the ban.

Susan Gray, the founder of road safety victim support group PARC, lost her husband Steve when he was killed in a road traffic collision involving an unaccompanied learner driver in Donegal in 2004. She spoke with Mr Cowen on Tuesday morning, and said none of the questions she put to the minister were answered during the call, or by his Dáil statement on Wednesday night.

"He called me, we'd had no contact before that but he said he wanted to apologise for drink-driving to me and anyone in our group," she said.

"He said what he did was wrong and he offered to work with our group in the future to send out a message.

"For me, there are loads of outstanding issues about the learner permit.

"Why was he on the permit for that long? I asked him loads of questions and he said he was making a Dáil statement and he said he would address as many questions as he could but he was still waiting back for information on some of them."

Mr Cowen used Dáil standing orders on Tuesday night to address the chamber and said he had been driving on a provisional driving permit because his previous licence had expired. He said that he subsequently secured and now has a full, clean driver's licence, addressing the questions around how he, as a TD aged 49, would not have done so by that stage.

"The fact is that before the recent, proper reforms of the system, it was not uncommon for people of all ages to drive with either a provisional or learner permit," he said. "However, this was bad practice and I clearly should have regularised my position much sooner."

Ms Gray has submitted a number of questions she says need to be answered by Mr Cowen.

    The list of outstanding questions are:
  • 1. How many learner permits did Barry Cowen obtain from the Road Safety Authority before sitting a driving test?
  • 2. While driving on a learner permit did he always display L plates as is the law?
  • 3. While driving on a learner permit did he ensure that he was always accompanied by a qualified driver as is the law?
  • 4. How many times did he sit a driving test before passing?
  • 5. When exactly did he pass his driving test?
  • 6. Did he display N plates on his vehicle for two years after passing the driving test, as is the law?
  • 7. How many times was he detected speeding?
  • 8. How many penalty points were applied to his learner permit?
  • 9. Did he inform his insurance company of his penalty points?
  • 10. Was he ever disqualified having accumulated the maximum penalty points for a learner driver which is seven points?

“When these questions are answered we can then issue our final statement. In the meantime, our Government needs to close the loophole whereby learners need never sit a driving test to drive on Irish roads,” she said.

“We want Micheál Martin to call on Barry Cowen, sit down with him and clarify every law that he has broken," she said.

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