Cowen says no outstanding driving offences following ‘serious lapse of judgement’ in 2016


Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen says that he has no outstanding driving offences on his licence after admitting to a “serious lapse of judgement” by being caught drink-driving in 2016.

Mr Cowen was stopped at a garda checkpoint in 2016 on his way home to Offaly after he attended the All-Ireland Football final in Dublin.

Mr Cowen was found to be over the limit and received a €200 fine and was disqualified from driving for three months. He has apologised to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who only learned of the ban on Friday.

Mr Cowen said that he had received speeding fines in the past, but a government spokesperson said that these were historical and that none were outstanding on his licence. The Laois-Offaly TD told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics that he had been driving on a provisional licence at the time, despite being a TD since 2011. He said that he had since “regularised” this and obtained his full licence. He admitted that he had driven without a fully licensed driver at times, but was not unaccompanied at the time of the offence. Mr Cowen said that he had never had a full licence previously.

Mr Cowen said that he had made a “stupid, stupid mistake” and was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the reaction.

“It was a terribly, stupid, stupid mistake on my part. It’s something that I’m very regretful for, this publicity which is associated with it now, which is part of the punishment is only right and proper. I’m in public life, I have to accept responsibility for my actions, it was a serious lack of lapse of judgment. And I wasn’t raised that way. I have a wife and family and young children, kids in their early 20s some of them and it’s no example to them.”

Mr Cowen said that he “naively” should have told his party leader Micheál Martin about the ban but said he was not trying to keep the incident secret.

“People will say I should have told the party leader, yes naively, in hindsight I should have. Maybe I should have stood up in the Dáil and led from the front on this.”

Meanwhile, Mr Cowen’s party colleague Billy Kelleher MEP apologised for not self-isolating for 14 days after returning from Brussels to attend last Saturday’s Dáil sitting which saw Micheál Martin elected Taoiseach.

The former Cork North-Central TD said that while he had been tested before leaving the Belgian capital, his decision not to isolate had put others at risk.

“I accept that the risk could not have been eliminated fully and I should have followed HSE advice and remained at home. This was an error of judgement on my part and I apologise unreservedly.”

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