Taoiseach ‘disappointed’ he only learned of Barry Cowen’s driving ban on Friday

Minister of Agriculture served three-month ban in 2016 after being stopped for drink-driving

Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen said he was ‘profoundly sorry’ about the incident. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen said he was ‘profoundly sorry’ about the incident. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he is “disappointed” that he only learned on Friday of a driving ban served by Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen four years ago.

In 2016, Mr Cowen served a three-month disqualification from driving after he was found to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Fianna Fáil TD was stopped at a checkpoint and breathalysed on his way home to Offaly from Dublin after the All-Ireland football final four years ago, according to the Irish Independent.

He was found to be over the limit and was issued with a fixed charge penalty notice, a €200 fine, and was disqualified from driving for three months.

The TD had a provisional licence at the time of the incident, resulting in a driving ban instead of penalty points.

The law on drink-driving for learner drivers four years ago meant a concentration 10mg-35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath was considered over the limit.

Mr Cowen’s case did not go to court as the level of alcohol in his system was on the lower scale and did not reach the level required for prosecution.

Mr Cowen said he was “profoundly sorry” about the incident, adding that it was “an appalling lapse and one which I have to accept and learn from”.

In a statement on Saturday morning, the Taoiseach said he was first made aware of the “issue” on Friday afternoon.

“I have spoken to Minister Cowen and I accept that his remorse about this incident is genuine,” he said. “I am disappointed that I learned about it in this way and have made that clear to him.”

Mr Cowen was appointed Minister for Agriculture last week by the Taoiseach and was a member of the Fianna Fáil negotiating team in the coalition talks.

The Minister has been a TD since 2011 and served as the party’s public expenditure spokesman for the past two years.

He comes from a long line of Fianna Fáil politicians, with his brother Brian a former taoiseach and their late father Ber a former TD.