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Catherine Martin puts pressure on Barry Cowen over driver's licence controversy

  • 'He called it himself a stupid mistake, I would say a dangerous mistake because lives are put at risk' - Catherine Martin

  • Barry Cowen 'took his punishment' and doesn't need to resign - Tánaiste

  • Varadkar says Martin has promised him there will be 'no more revelations of serious offenses'

  • Head of road safety group said she was 'totally unhappy' with Cowen's explanation

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Catherine Martin

Catherine Martin

Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

PA

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Catherine Martin

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin has heaped pressure on Mr Cowen to explain why he was a learner’s licence when he was stopped for drink driving.

Ms Martin has demanded that Mr Cowen outline why he failed to acquire a full licence until he was 49 years old.

On Virgin Media’s The Tonight Show, Ms Martin said she had not seen the Offaly TD’s personal statement in the Dáil but insisted he should reveal why he was not on a full licence at the time of the incident.

“If the issue of why he wasn’t on a licence wasn’t addressed in the statement then that needs to be addressed the sooner the better,” The Dublin Rathdown TD said.

Mr Cowen gave no additional details to the Dáil about how he managed to avoid pass a driving test before he was almost 50 years old. Road safety campaigners were furious with the lack of details provided by the minister in the Dáil.

On RTE’s Morning Ireland, Ms Martin was asked again if he should address the driver’s licence issue after he was criticised by campaigners

“I think that was the one issue that wasn’t addressed last night and yes I think he may have to reach out to them and explain that himself,” he said

Ms Martin said she accepted Mr Cowen’s “contrite apology” in the Dáil and said the minister “learned” from the incident.

“He has suffered the punishment at the time and this week the humiliating coverage, as he described it himself, is rightly there,” she said.

“I think he has shown remorse and clearly it was a huge mistake. He called it himself a stupid mistake, I would say a dangerous mistake because lives are put at risk if one drinks and drives and the clear message is you never ever to that,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Mr Cowen "took his punishment" and does not need to resign for his drink-driving conviction and failure to disclose this up front to Government colleagues.

"As regards Minister Cowen, he's made his apology. He's given his explanations. He took his punishment for the offense that he committed," Mr Varadkar said in response to a question from the Irish Independent.

"I've received an assurance from the Taoiseach that there won't be any more revelations of any offenses that are more serious than the ones that we know about. So I'm satisfied with that," said Mr Varadkar, who was attending the launch of the midyear results for inward investment agency IDA Ireland.

When asked whether the Government needed to take a tougher line on drink driving and on drivers who spend years on the roads with only 'learner' permits, Mr Varadkar said the Government would tighten laws and see that they were better enforced.

"Our roads in Ireland can be very dangerous places. Thousands of people have lost their lives on our roads. Most families in Ireland have been affected in some way; somebody has lost their life or been injured on our roads," he said. "That's why improving road safety has to be part of the mission of the new Government."

It comes as the chairperson of road safety group PARC, Susan Gray, said she’s “totally unhappy” with Minister Barry Cowen’s explanation in the Dáil last night.

Ms Gray also claimed that when she spoke to the Minister directly, he admitted that he had never sat a driving test until a few years ago but had kept driving on his learner permit.

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Susan Gray of the road safety group, PARC

Susan Gray of the road safety group, PARC

Susan Gray of the PARC Road Safety Group pictured at Cork Circuit Criminal Court where Susan Gleeson was given a three year suspended sentence for dangerous driving over tragic crash that killed Geraldine (58) and Louise (22) Clancy. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts Limited

Susan Gray of the road safety group, PARC

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1, she said that there was “something seriously wrong with this” and said that it looks like Minister Cowen “picks and chooses the laws that he obeys.”

“All the questions that we had asked him...he rang me yesterday morning and assured me the outstanding questions we had - mainly relating to him driving on a Learner Permit until the age of 49 - that he would answer as many as he could in his Dáil statement last night,” she said.

“He has not answered one of them so we are calling on our new Taoiseach to get clarity from Barry Cowen on the outstanding issues.”

She added: “Our Taoiseach should be automatically asking his Minister...he should be so interested and so concerned in getting these answers.

“It shouldn’t be a victims' support group like us to get these basic answers,” she said.

She said that this “cannot be allowed to go away” and that An Taoiseach needs to sit Minister Cowen down and ask him to clarify every road traffic offence that may have been committed.

She also wants to close the loophole where learners can drive for lengthy periods without having to sit a driving test.

“This is a man that it looks like like, he picks and chooses the laws that he obeys,” she said.

She said PARC has campaigned for years to stop people applying for a test and not turning up knowing they can renew the provisional licence.

Ms Gray was speaking after the new Minister for Agriculture said that he was “deeply sorry” in the Dáil last night for incurring a three-month ban in 2016 for driving over the legal limit on a provisional licence. He was 49 at the time of the incident.

PARC also wants to know when did he pass the test and how many times he was caught speeding.

This is in reference to a separate incident where Minister Cowen appeared before Dublin District Court in June 2016 and fined €200 for breaking the 60kmh limit at Palmerstown in June 2015.

Ms Gray set up the road safety group after her husband Steven was killed as a result of an incident involving an unaccompanied driver on a road in Donegal’s Inishowen in 2004.

In the Dáil last night, Minister Cowen said that his decision to drive after consuming alcohol on September 18, 2016 was a "stupid, stupid mistake" and a "source of deep regret."

A spokesperson for An Taoiseach said that he "accepts that his [Mr Cowen’s] remorse is genuine" describing Tuesday’s statement as an "abject apology."

Online Editors