Taoiseach Micheál Martin was told 10 days ago about the details which have led a Cabinet minister to now deny that he tried to "evade" a garda when he was caught drink-driving.
Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen says the official Garda record of his drink-driving offence in 2016 is "incorrect".
In a serious development for the Government, the minister is demanding gardaí change the record of his drink-driving ban. And the Garda watchdog is now investigating the leaking of information on Mr Cowen's drink-driving disqualification.
Fine Gael and the Green Party are waiting to see what emerges as the controversy continued to dog the coalition. Opposition parties are demanding Mr Cowen make a statement again and answer questions in the Dáil. The Taoiseach is being called upon to intervene to provide clarity.
Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin is expected to make a statement this morning. She is expected to say her party wants clarity, rather than take a definitive stance on Mr Cowen's position. Senior figures in the Greens discussed the issue last night.
The Taoiseach was informed by the Irish Independent of the full details of Mr Cowen's drink-driving incident on the afternoon of Friday, July 3.
Fine Gael sources also indicated the party was awaiting the view of the Taoiseach.
Mr Martin did inform his coalition partners of Mr Cowen's previously undisclosed drink-driving ban that night before the revelation became public. However, it is not clear if he told his coalition partners last week about the disputed claims around the incident.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Climate Change Minister Eamon Ryan, along with senior Fine Gael and Green Party figures, backed Mr Cowen following his statement to the Dáil on the matter.
Rather than being put to bed, the Agriculture Minister's drink-driving ban is again back in the public spotlight.
Mr Cowen vehemently denied there was any attempt to evade a garda when he was stopped for drink driving when the allegation was put to him by this newspaper 10 days ago. The minister said he "didn't know where that has come from", and said he was not charged with such an offence. He said there was "no foundation to that".
"I was stopped and that's what happened," he said at that time.
Mr Cowen did not dispute any other aspect of the incident. The Cabinet minister subsequently said he would issue defamation proceedings if the allegation was published by the Irish Independent.
Mr Cowen says a Garda record of his drink-driving offence in 2016 is "incorrect".
"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," he said in a personal statement yesterday.
Notably, the statement came directly from Mr Cowen himself, not the Government, his department or Fianna Fáil.
Mr Cowen's statement was issued after 'The Sunday Times' claimed 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.
"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 Síochána to disclose any information obtained in the course of his or her duties. I am informed that An Garda Síochána has commenced a criminal investigation into the source of this leak.
"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," he said.
Gardaí had launched an internal probe into the possible leaking of information about the Agriculture Minister's drink-driving ban.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will refer the matter to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc).
"As Minister Cowen's statement constitutes a complaint against a member or members of An Garda Síochána, the Commissioner will be referring the matter to Gsoc for its consideration," a spokesperson said.
The incident occurred on September 18, 2016, at 8.18pm. The drawn All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo was played that day.
Mr Cowen was stopped by gardaí at Kilshanroe, Carbury, Co Kildare. The location is near the M4 Dublin-to-Galway motorway at Enfield and close to the Offaly border.
He was driving an 09-D registered, light-coloured Renault Megane. He was found to be over the legal limit. Mr Cowen was 49 when the incident occurred.
Mr Cowen has apologised repeatedly and said he was ashamed and embarrassed.
Irish News Premium
Gardai have launched an internal probe into the possible leaking of information about Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen's drink-driving ban, the Sunday Independent can reveal. The initial inquiry, which may lead to a full internal investigation by the force, comes after the Fianna Fail TD apologised for a "stupid, stupid mistake" in the Dail last week.
It was unquestionably a rough week for Barry Cowen. The Agriculture Minister found himself under an "intense spotlight ... and on the shame, more importantly the shame, of drink-driving". Still, it could have been worse for him politically. He's being driven around as a Cabinet minister this weekend. The allegations about his drink-driving ban, provisional licence and speeding were being pursued weeks earlier before the new Cabinet was appointed. The chilling effect of our defamation laws meant it was exceptionally difficult to verify the story.