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Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen says Garda record of drink driving incident is ‘incorrect’

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will now refer the matter to the Garda Ombudsman.

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APOLOGY: Barry Cowen said he made a ‘stupid, stupid mistake’

APOLOGY: Barry Cowen said he made a ‘stupid, stupid mistake’

APOLOGY: Barry Cowen said he made a ‘stupid, stupid mistake’

Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen has said that a Garda record of his drink-driving offence in 2016 is "incorrect".

Last weekend, Independent.ie revealed he had been banned for three months for drink driving.

Mr Cowen subsequently made a statement in the Dail about the 2016 incident and apologised several times.

In a further statement issued this morning, he said that he has sought a copy of the “incorrect record” of the incident under the Data Protection Act.

It came after a story published in The Sunday Times claiming that he has disputed the garda account of his driving offence, and categorically denied attempting to drive away or turn his car on the night of his arrest.

Mr Cowen said: “The Sunday Times has today published an article referring to an incorrect Garda record dealing with the incident which occurred on 18 September 2016… I did not evade, or attempt to evade, a Garda. Such an act would constitute a serious criminal offence and I was not charged with such an offence. On being informed of its existence I sought a copy of this incorrect record and am taking steps under the Data Protection Act to have it corrected,” the statement from the Minister reads.

“This incorrect Garda record can only have come into the possession of the newspaper through a criminal act. It is a criminal offence for a member of An Garda Siochana to disclose any information obtained in the course of his or her duties. I am informed that An Garda Siochana has commenced a criminal investigation into the source of this leak,” the statement from Mr Cowen adds.

“It is obvious that the disclosure of this information at this time in flagrant breach of the criminal law and my rights under data protection law is a disgraceful attempt to cause me the maximum personal and political harm.”

The Sunday Independent has today reported that gardai have launched an internal probe into the possible leaking of information about Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen's drink-driving ban.

This comes after the Fianna Fail TD apologised for a "stupid, stupid mistake" in the Dail last week.

An Garda Siochana said that Commissioner Drew Harris will refer the matter to the Garda Ombudsman.

"As Minister Cowen's statement constitutes a complaint against a member or members of An Garda Siochana the Commissioner will be referring the matter to GSOC for its consideration," said a spokesperson.

However, in a statement, GSOC said that it has not received a referral, complaint or notification.

"GSOC has received a number of media inquiries about a matter involving a Government minister which has been widely reported upon in the media in recent days. GSOC has to date received no referral, complaint or notification from the Garda Síochána in relation to this matter," said a spokesperson.

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Driving ban: Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire