Leo Varadkar joins Eamon Ryan in call for Barry Cowen to answer more questions about drink-driving incident

Leo Varadkar joins Eamon Ryan in call for Barry Cowen to answer more questions about drink-driving incident

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has echoed calls for Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen to answer further questions about his 2016 drink-driving conviction.

It emerged last week that Mr Cowen served a three-month driving ban after being found by gardaí to be drink-driving after attending the All-Ireland football final.

Mr Cowen apologised in the Dáil last week for a “grave” error of judgment and said his subsequent “humiliation” will hopefully serve to highlight the “terrible dangers and consequences” of such offending.

On Sunday, Mr Cowen released a statement saying he did not evade or attempt to evade a Garda on the night he was found to be drink-driving in September 2016.

He made the statement in response to a report following the apparent disclosure of information by a member of An Garda Siochana.

The Garda Commissioner has referred the matter to the Ombudsman.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has called for further clarity regarding Mr Cowen’s drink-driving ban and said “there was a whole range of questions” that must be answered.

Asked if he thinks Mr Ryan is correct to say Mr Cowen should answer more questions, Mr Varadkar said: “I think he is.

“We know that Minister Cowen committed a road traffic offence four years ago, he apologised and has paid the price for it which was a three-month driving ban, and he since regularised his affairs and has a full, clean driving licence.”

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar speaking to the media as he arrived for the Cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle (Niall Carson/PA)

“He has been punished for that mistake and I don’t think he should be punished twice for that mistake but a different issue has arisen now since then which is this Garda report that he may have tried to avoid a Garda checkpoint, and he says that is untrue and has made a complaint to Gardaí about that to have that record corrected, and I understand that Gardaí are looking into that,” he told RTE Morning Ireland.

“Until that investigation is done, then there is not anything more to say about it but we will have to see what the outcome of that investigation is.

Mr Varadkar said he can understand why opposition parties want to question Mr Cowen further about the incident.

“I’m aware of that and I’m sure Mr Cowen will answer any questions that are pertinent – what is more important is that he has made a complaint to Gardaí about this report and I understand that Garda Commissioner is going to investigate that, so really we need to find out the outcome of that report before we say anything further.”

Mr Varadkar said he sought assurances from Taoiseach Micheál Martin that no more revelations about Mr Cowen’s case were to come.

At the time of the drink-driving incident, Mr Cowen was holding a legal driving permit because his provisional licence had lapsed.

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

The chairwoman of the PARC Road Safety Group, Susan Gray, also said Mr Cowen told her he never sat a driving test before his drink-driving ban in 2016.

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