Thomas Byrne denies leaking Barry Cowen drink-driving ban to press

Thomas Byrne denies leaking Barry Cowen drink-driving ban to press
Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne has denied that it was he who leaked news of Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen's drink-driving ban to the press.

Mr Byrne told the Michael Reade Show on LMFM Radio today that he and Mr Cowen are on good terms and it was "now clear" that he had not told the press about Mr Cowen's 2016 road ban.

Party activist Ken McFadden had claimed that Mr Byrne had told him in a phone call that he was the source of the leak.

Mr Byrne, however, said that is not the case and denied that he had "gone to ground".

I think it's pretty clear now that I am not possibly the source of this particular story.

"We now see that there's a garda investigation which does not involve me. I am on good terms with Barry Cowen, I remain on good terms with Barry Cowen."

Mr Byrne said that he hadn't spoken to Mr McFadden at 1.30am as suggested, adding that the conversation had taken place around 1am. Mr Byrne said he had made phone calls to "many of his friends" on Saturday, June 27, when Mr Byrne was overlooked for a full cabinet position.

Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mr Byrne said that he "absolutely" refutes Mr McFadden's claims.

Mr Byrne said that he had taken legal advice on the claims, and had assessed his options, but suggested his role as a junior minister would preclude him from taking a case against Mr McFadden.

"'As someone who has worked on defamation cases, these things take up all of your time."

Mr Byrne said that Mr Cowen had addressed the Dáil on the issue.

We heard from Barry Cowen in the Dáil and he gave an account of what happened. I think he expressed profound regret and deep embarrassment.

"There's no doubt that anyone who drinks and drives is a very bad example."

Mr Byrne said that Mr Cowen's statement was "standard practice in the Dáil" and said that the legal punishment was appropriate.

He said that he had "no issue with questions being asked of Barry Cowen".

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