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Dara Calleary appointed new Agriculture Minister as gardaí contact Data Protection Commissioner over Barry Cowen drink-driving case

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Deputy Fianna Fail leader Dara Calleary 
(PA)

Deputy Fianna Fail leader Dara Calleary (PA)

PA

Deputy Fianna Fail leader Dara Calleary (PA)

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has nominated Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary to replace Barry Cowen as Agriculture Minister.

Mr Martin said that junior finance minister Jack Chambers is to replace Mr Calleary as Government Chief Whip.

And Laois-Offaly TD Seán Fleming will take over as the junior minister for finance.

Mr Martin said Mayo TD Mr Calleary will be an "effective minister" who will deliver on the commitments relating to Agriculture in the Programme for Government.

Mr Calleary had been disappointed not to be selected as a senior minister in Mr Martin's first round of appointments.

He said the government is committed to supporting farmers and food businesses through the "many challenges" they face like Brexit, the fallout from Covid-19 and Climate Change.

While Dara Calleary is not directly from a rural background, the Mayo constituency he represents has a large farming population giving him a good insight into his new job as Agriculture Minister. He played a major role in the coalition talks with Fine Gael and the Green Party, heightening his disappointment at not making Cabinet first time around.

The controversy was heightened by having no full minister from counties west of the River Shannon.

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Barry Cowen

Barry Cowen

Barry Cowen

Dara Calleary, aged 47, is the Fianna Fáil deputy leader and a TD for Mayo since 2007. He went to primary and secondary school in his native Ballina before going to Trinity College Dublin to do a BA in business and politics.

Calleary was national chairman of his party’s youth wing, Ógra Fianna Fáil, for a year soon after his election as a TD. In 2009 he was appointed junior enterprise minister as the economy badly foundered and soon afterwards the Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition fell asunder.

Calleary retained his Dáil seat in 2011 as Fianna Fáil suffered huge losses. His father, Seán, and grandfather, Phelim, were also TDs for Mayo.

This comes as gardaí have notified the Data Protection Commissioner about a potential data breach related to Mr Cowen's drink-driving case.

The formal notification relates to the potential unauthorised disclosure of information from the force’s Pulse system regarding the incident four years ago.

Mr Cowen was dramatically sacked as Agriculture Minister by Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night.

The data watchdog confirmed on Wednesday morning that it received a preliminary breach notification from An Garda Síochána overnight and it is currently being assessed.

“The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has received a preliminary breach notification from An Garda Síochána overnight and we are currently assessing it,” the DPC’s Graham Doye told Independent.ie.

The breach notification is understood to relate to the potential unauthorised disclosure of information on Pulse about the former Agriculture Minister’s drink-driving offence four years ago.

Mr Cowen was sacked from Cabinet after refusing to publicly answer outstanding questions about his drink-driving ban four years ago. Mr Cowen showed Mr Martin the Pulse entry on Tuesday morning, hours before he was asked to resign and was then sacked by the Taoiseach after refusing to step down.

Gardaí confirmed at the weekend they were examining whether to launch a full investigation into whether a third party had access to information held by the force about the drink-driving incident.

The initial inquiries by the DPC set the stage for a potential third probe into the matter which is already being examined by An Garda Síochána and the Garda Ombudsman, GSOC.

Mr Cowen has claimed that the Garda entry on the Pulse system is inaccurate and has also raised issues with the disclosure of the information to the public domain.

The Offaly TD said at the weekend that he was taking steps to have the Pulse record about the incident corrected under the Data Protection Act.

However, it is understood this will not be possible to do through the DPC under existing data protection laws. A source said it was ultimately a matter between Mr Cowen and Gardaí.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has opted to give a chance to a younger TD by appointing Dublin West TD, Jack Chambers, as government chief whip.

Unveiling the necessary changes arising from the sacking of Barry Cowen from Government, Mr Martin promoted the 29-year-old TD from the junior finance minister job he was given just 18 days ago.

Jack Chambers was the youngest TD in the Dáil when he was first elected in 2016 and became the youngest minister in Taoiseach Micheál Martin's team.

A strong performer on the last Dáil's justice committee, Mr Chambers won respect from politicians in Fine Gael and the Greens for his contribution to government formation talks.

The appointment allows him attend Cabinet but does not entitle him to vote. The job mainly involves ensuring all the Government TDs vote appropriately.

The new junior finance minister, Seán Fleming, aged 62, has been a distinguished contributor to Dáil committees dealing with finance and the economy and also chaired the Public Accounts Committee. He was first elected to the Dáil in 1997.

Mr Fleming, a chartered accountant, was previously Fianna Fáil financial director.

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