Clarity needed on Barry Cowen’s driving record, says road safety group

Parc says they need answers on how many laws he broke when on learner permit

Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Road safety campaigners have demanded that Taoiseach Micheál Martin seek answers from Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen to a series of further questions following his statement to the Dáil on a 2016 drink-driving ban.

Susan Gray, founder of the Parc organisation, said Mr Cowen had failed to satisfactorily address various aspects of his driving record during a telephone conversation with her on Tuesday morning.

While he attempted to bring the matter to conclusion in his subsequent Dáil address, Parc has now demanded further information be put into the public domain.

Ms Gray told The Irish Times that the Taoiseach should “sit down with Barry Cowen and ask all the questions that he should have been asking and not us ...what his driving behaviour was like in general and how many laws he [may have] broken while he was on a learner permit.”

Detailing those questions, Ms Gray said clarity was required on how many learner permits Mr Cowen has had – she estimates that had he started driving at around the age of 20 – he could have accumulated more than 10 permits without passing a test.

If that was the case, she continued, how could he have regularly travelled to the Dáil from his Laois-Offaly constituency with a qualified passenger, as the law states learner drivers must have at all times.

The Minister also needs to address how often he would have been driving unaccompanied in general.

Ms Gray said he also needs to state if he had regularly displayed leaner plates, or “L-plates”, and said Mr Cowen had indicated to her during their conversation that he had “sometimes” done so.

Exactly when Mr Cowen passed his driving test is also relevant, she said. “He told me on the phone [that he passed it] a few years ago. I said, Barry we need to know when. He said he didn’t know.”

N-plates

This was relevant, she explained, because if it was within the last two years, he would have had to have displayed novice N-Plates for two years, another legal requirement that he needed to address.

On the issue of speeding, Ms Gray said several important questions remain outstanding. He had indicated in a recent interview, she said, that he had received speeding “fines”.

If there were a number of fines, Parc wants clarity on how many penalty points he received and whether they were all applied to his licence. A learner driver is disqualified after seven points – three points are issued with a fixed penalty notice and five if the offence receives a court conviction, although points only remain on a licence for three years.

She also asked him if he informed his insurance company about any penalty points and what effect that had on his premium but was again dissatisfied with his response.

“He hasn’t answered [these questions] and if he has nothing to hide answer the questions. It makes us suspicious if he continues to not answer,” Ms Gray said.

She explained that the reason Parc was pressing the issue was that Mr Cowen is a legislator and that many of the organisation’s members, including herself, had lost loved ones in crashes with unaccompanied learner drivers.

David Walsh lost his daughter Mary and unborn granddaughter Mollie in a crash in 2012. Louise Doyle’s sister Niamh and her three friends were killed in 2015; and Alec Lee lost his daughter Carol in 2001.

“These are people that are suffering; it’s not a one off incident. It’s just, I don’t know ... it’s just not right that the Government aren’t taking it as a serious offence,” Ms Gray said.

“Micheál Martin is claiming that [Mr Cowen] broke the law once and paid the price, move on.”