Cowen sacking: Taoiseach grilled by opposition over decision to remove Agriculture Minister

Cowen sacking: Taoiseach grilled by opposition over decision to remove Agriculture Minister
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Brian Cowen should "come before the house" to explain the issue. File Picture.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has insisted he sacked Barry Cowen from government because of his refusal to address the Dáil over his drink driving incident.

Mr Martin also said he did not, last week, have access to the garda record or exact details about claims Mr Cowen tried to avoid gardaí when he was drink-driving, a charge the former Agriculture Minister denies.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Martin faced a series of questions from the opposition today, including what he knew and when about the drink-driving incident and the garda report about it.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald asked Mr Martin if he had misled the Dáil over his knowledge about the incident or claims Mr Cowen tried to evade gardaí when stopped on the road in 2016.

The Fianna Fáil leader fired back, saying he “strongly” disagreed with her claim he was aware of the details of the garda file or claims about evading gardaí last week.

He said he didn't see the garda details until Tuesday morning. 

He said those details were in a Pulse file which had been with Mr Cowen's solicitor when the two spoke on Monday night.

Mr Martin explained that yesterday afternoon, he tried to ask Mr Cowen to answer questions in the Dáil but that the Laois-Offaly TD refused.

Mr Martin said the minister “took a legalistic approach to defend his rights” but the issue could “only be resolved through the political route”.

“If you are a minister, an office holder, you should come before the house,” added Mr Martin.

But when the then-Agriculture Minister refused to come into the Dáil and answer questions, Mr Martin said he had no choice but to sack him.

“In the afternoon, when he still refused, I was left with no alternative.” 

Labour leader Alan Kelly pressed the Taoiseach on whether the file was a Pulse file or not.

Mr Martin said the file related to two issues: the drink driving incident and a speeding fine.

But despite the answers, opposition TDs continued to challenge Mr Martin on what had changed since he defended Mr Cowen during Leaders Questions at 2pm yesterday and the announcement he had fired the minister just seven hours later.

Social Democrats co-leader TD Catherine Murphy still asked what had changed in that time period. 

Mr Martin said, "The fundamental issue was deputy Cowen's refusal to clarify issues that had arisen." 

 

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