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Government blocks attempt to change Dáil business to allow questions on Barry Cowen's driving history

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Barry Cowen (Niall Carson/PA)

Barry Cowen (Niall Carson/PA)

FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

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Barry Cowen (Niall Carson/PA)

THE Government has blocked an attempt to change today’s Dáil business to allow for Minister Barry Cowen to face questions on his driving history.

Fine Gael and Green Party TDs weighed in behind their coalition partners Fianna Fáil in opposing an attempt to vote down the Dáil’s order of business.

Agriculture Minister Mr Cowen is to make a personal statement later today on a drink-driving incident in 2016 that occurred while he held a provisional driving licence.

Questions by TDs aren’t permitted under the standing order under which Mr Cowen will make his statement.

Rise TD Paul Murphy said it’s “not acceptable” that Mr Cowen would give a statement with no opportunity for questions.

He said ministers at the centre of controversy in the last Dáil answered questions on a number of occasions.

In relation to Mr Cowen he argued: “There are numerous questions outstanding relating to the offence itself, relating to the status of his driving licence, relating to whether he was repeatedly in breach of the law in terms of ‘L’ plates, in terms of accompanying drivers.”

He said the most important issue is precedent.

“This is the first test of the government and whether they’re going to establish a precedent to ministers being involved in controversy and then using their majority to say that there won’t be any questions, we’ll just make a statement and that will be the end of it.”

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said personal explanations without questions are not unprecedented in the Dáil.

He said Mr Cowen made the request for speaking time under Standing Order 56 which does not allow a debate or questions

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he agreed to the request and “that’s the end of that particular matter”.

Mr Murphy said it was “problematic” that no questions will be allowed and asked that the Dáil’s Business Committee meet to discuss proposals to permit questions and answers.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said there had been no time requested at the business committee to deal with the issue and dismissed it as “showboating and shenanigans”.

He said: “The correct procedure has been used for the statement and we’re all waiting to hear it.”

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said there is “critical legislation” that must be enacted before the end of July and suggested a questions and answers session with Mr Cowen would take time away from that work.

The Dáil voted to proceed with the Order of Business as planned by 30 votes to 14.

The Labour Party and a number of Independent TDs also voted with the Government.

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