| 7.1°C Dublin

Fans fuming as Cowen lights up at Croke Park

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen's trip to Croke Park nearly went up in smoke last weekend when he was caught puffing on a cigarette in a smoke-free area.

Supporters at the Cork against Dublin match were left fuming after they spotted Mr Cowen taking a drag from his cigarette outside one of the corporate box areas.

And while Croke Park has admitted that the Taoiseach was smoking in an area where it is not allowed, Mr Cowen will not be fined or prosecuted.

The spokesperson said: "The stadium was empty, and the Taoiseach was in the area. Someone asked him to put out the cigarette and, as always, he complied.

"We don't want to make a sensational story out of this."

Mr Cowen's failure to comply with anti-smoking legislation was due to a "genuine mistake," according to a spokesperson for the Taoiseach.

"He did light up but he thought it was an open area, and when he was asked to extinguish the cigarette, he extinguished it. Croke Park has said that he didn't break any laws."

He added: "It was a genuine mistake. As soon as it was pointed out to him, he said 'sorry'."

The incident came to light when an irate GAA supporter contacted Liveline to ask why Mr Cowen was taking a "sneaky drag" when no-smoking signs are clearly positioned all around the stadium.


"Croke Park is actually a no-smoking stadium, and they designate two areas which would be outside the stadium itself within the bounds of Croke Park," he said.

"81,500 have to venture out and get a smoking wrist band to have a smoke but obviously there are no rules for Brian Cowen, he obviously has his own personal rules," he claimed.

The Liveline caller stressed that smoking could have caused a serious fire hazard in the stadium on Sunday afternoon

"On a windy, blustery afternoon, a lot of rubbish and programmes [are] flying around, I think he [should] have the cop on to not smoke.

"It's a five or 10 minute trip down to the ground floor [smoking area] but everybody makes it."

Croke Park Stadium operates a no-smoking policy, except in designated areas, in compliance with the smoke-free legislation which came into effect in March 2004.

"This policy has been developed to protect all employees, customers and visitors to the stadium from exposure to second hand smoke and to ensure a safe and healthy working environment," according to the stadium's website.

"Patrons who do not comply with this smoke free policy will be asked to leave the stadium."

Terry Prone, Page 15