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Tales of ministers and a Government afraid of the social media Wild West

Fionnán Sheahan


The cases of Barry Cowen and Roderic O’Gorman show how grown-up media is hampered, writes Fionnán Sheahan

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Driving ban: Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Driving ban: Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

PA

Driving ban: Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin did his best Claude Rains impression when hearing of Cowen's woes. Like Captain Renault in 'Casablanca' who was "shocked, shocked" to find gambling in Rick's Café as a croupier handed him his winnings, Martin says he first became aware of Cowen's drink-driving ban last Friday afternoon when contacted by this newspaper.

"I am disappointed that I learned about it in this way and have made that clear to him," the Taoiseach said.