Taoiseach Micheál Martin under fire in Dáil over handling of Barry Cowen saga

Taoiseach Micheál Martin under fire in Dáil over handling of Barry Cowen saga
Barry Cowen, file photo

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been accused of misleading the Dáil after the Government spent its 18th day in office attempting to quell ongoing criticism over the Barry Cowen drink driving saga and concern over its professionalism.

The Taoiseach insisted he sacked his agriculture minister because of his refusal to address the Dáil over the circumstances surrounding his drink driving ban. 

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said that many were left "scratching their heads" about what happened in the hours after Mr Martin backed his then minister during Tuesday's Leaders' questions.

"People are wondering did you learn something new? Was there another twist in the tale, another piece of information?

“The truth is that you knew this whole sorry story from the very beginning, not like the rest of us who learned of it piecemeal,” adding that the Taoiseach "played down" the contents of the garda record.

Mr Martin vehemently denied he had access to the garda record last week, or the exact details about claims Mr Cowen tried to avoid a gardaí checkpoint when he was drink-driving, a charge he denies.

The Dáil also learned that the file related to two issues: the drink driving incident and a speeding fine.

Former Fianna Fáil Minister Conor Lenihan claimed the details of the controversy were "rather puzzling" due to a vetting procedure in place for ministerial appointments.

Due to the swift disposal of Mr Cowen, there was cause for a mini-reshuffle of ministers which saw formerly overlooked Mayo TD Dara Calleary elevated to the Cabinet table as the new Agriculture Minister.

The appointment will also put to rest questions over why there was a lack of representation for the West of Ireland at Cabinet.

Mr Martin also announced that the role of chief whip will be filled by Dublin-West TD Jack Chambers, who will move up from his current role as a junior finance minister.

Laois-Offaly TD Sean Fleming will in turn fill that role, coming from the backbenches.

Further splits within the unlikely coalition of Fine Gael, the Greens and Fianna Fail came to the fore after a European court controversially ruled in favour of Ireland and Apple in a long-running tax case over whether the state gave the tech giant illegal state aid, overturning a decision by the European Commission four years ago that ruled Apple owed the exchequer over €14bn in back taxes.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe welcomed the ruling, saying the court battle had caused "reputational difficulty" for the state and the ruling "will lead many to reassess their view of our corporation tax regime".

His colleague in government Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan expressed disappointment.

"I feel it is vital that we ensure that large multinational companies pay a fair amount of tax," she said.

"Ireland needs to be a leader in supporting greater transparency and accountability in our tax system. Tax justice demands that every company small or large, pay their fair share."


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