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'It was dealt with at the time' -Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Barry Cowen's drink-driving ban

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'Taoiseach Micheál Martin has promised to hit the ground running.' Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

'Taoiseach Micheál Martin has promised to hit the ground running.' Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

'Taoiseach Micheál Martin has promised to hit the ground running.' Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

TAOISEACH Micheal Martin will not ask Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen to step down in relation to the ban he received for drink-driving four years ago, as the incident was "dealt with at the time."

The Offaly TD was disqualified from driving for three months after he was found to be over the limit when he was breathalyzed at a Garda checkpoint in 2016.

Mr Cowen has previously told the Irish Independent he is "profoundly sorry for having made that mistake," adding that it was an "appalling lapse of judgement."

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he "wasn't aware" of Mr Cowen's offence until last Friday.

Speaking to Red FM presenter Neil Prendeville, Mr Martin said he told the newly appointed minister, "you should have alerted me to that," adding: "He said he was very ashamed of it and it was an appalling lapse of judgment on his part. He accepted the punishment at the time."

When asked if Mr Cowen should be removed from cabinet, Mr Martin said: "In terms of justice being metered out, it did get dealt with at the time, four years ago. Are you going to condemn someone for the rest of their lives for something that might have happened four years ago, or five years ago?

"I think there was an issue of proportionality in that regard."

Speaking about Fianna Fail MEP Billy Kelleher breaching Covid-19 restrictions by choosing not to quarantine for 14 days after he flew to Ireland from Brussels, Mr Martin said there was "no need" for him to attend the National Convention Centre.

"There was no need for him to travel to the convention center, obviously it was a big day in terms of formation of a new government.

"He has accepted that he was wrong in that regard, that there was no necessity to do it, and he's apologised for that...

"But that said, he didn't have to be at the convention centre at all."

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said it would be appropriate for Minister Barry Cowen to make a statement in the Dail about his drink driving incident.

She was speaking after she met with the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris for the first time this morning, at Slane Garda Station, county Meath.

She said, ‘Firstly to say on my own part what happened was wrong, it shouldn’t have happened and I think the Minister has acknowledged what he did was wrong.”

“I think what is important at the time (is) the law was applied and obviously what was given out to the Minister he accepted it and he took that, as he should have.”

“I think what we need to focus on in this government, as the previous government did focus on, victims of those who have lost family members due to drink driving, making sure that we have measures in place that protect people, that make our roads as safe as possible and obviously there was a huge amount of changes implemented in the last government and we want to continue to implement them.”

“I do not agree with what happened, he has apologised, I accept that and I think it is important that the law was applied to him at the time.”

Asked if he still has questions to answer, the Minister said, “I think he has said he would be willing to make a statement in the Dail in terms of questions and that would be appropriate.”

Online Editors