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Barry Cowen apologises in Dáil for drink driving incident that was a 'stupid, stupid mistake'


FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

AGRICULTURE Minister Barry Cowen has tonight apologised in the Dáil for the drink driving incident that he said was a "stupid, stupid mistake".

Mr Cowen was disqualified from driving for three months after a drink driving incident in September 2016.

The Fianna Fáil TD was 49 and was driving on a learner permit when that incident occurred.

Mr Cowen said this was because his previous provisional licence had lapsed.

He said it was not uncommon for people of all ages and level of experience to drive on learner permits but conceded regularised his situation "much sooner".

Mr Cowen said he wanted to put the facts of what happened on the Dáil record.

He said he attended the All-Ireland football final with a friend on September 18, 2016.

"Before the match I consumed two drinks and following the game I had a light meal before driving home to Offaly.

"On the way to drop my friend home I was stopped by Gardaí and asked to participate in a breathalyser test.

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"I did so and both this test and a subsequent test at the local Garda Station confirmed that I was over the legal alcohol limit.

"At the time I held a learner driving permit because my previous provisional licence had lapsed.

"As such the penalty for my offence was a €200 fine and a three-month driving ban.

"I subsequently secured and now hold a full, clean driving licence."

Mr Cowen said there's been speculation about how someone of his age could have been driving on either a learner permit or a provisional licence.

He said: "The fact is that before the recent and proper reforms of the system it was not uncommon for people of all ages and levels of experience to drive with either a provisional or a learner permit.

"However, this was bad practice and I clearly should have regularised my position much sooner."

He said that reporting of the incident has extended to include "various parking and speeding fines that I have incurred over the years.

"I’m conscious that a constant drip feed of new information can be damaging and destabilising and it’s for that reason that I conducted a full examination of all records that I could attain.

"The only additional event that I’ve been able to identify – not reported this morning was a failure to display a tax disc while parked in Tullamore 14 years ago for which I paid a fine."

He said he hopes such infractions "would not be conflated with the altogether different offence of drink driving for which I am responsible."

Mr Cowen said: "My decision in September 2016 to drive home after consuming any alcohol was a stupid, stupid mistake.

"It never happened before the 18th of September 2016 and it has never happened since.

"It is a mistake for which I am profoundly sorry."

He said the criticism he received was "fully deserved".

Mr Cowen said he hopes the "grave error" and "my subsequent humiliation" will "serve to highlight the terrible dangers and consequences of drink-driving."

He said he apologised to his family, the Taoiseach, the government and the general public.

Mr Cowen also told the Dáil that he had contacted road safety campaigners to apologise for the hurt caused.

He said he wants to focus on his job as agriculture minister and spoke of contacts he had today with EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots about post Brexit trade.

"It’s the likes of that work and future work of it’s kind that I would rather be remembered for," he said.

Mr Cowen said that he is dedicating himself to delivering the Programme for Government and representing his constituents in Laois-Offaly but that tonight he was informing the House of what he described as "my misdemeanour."

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