Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Barry Cowen, made a personal statement in Dáil Éireann yesterday (Tuesday, July 7th) to provide an explanation in relation to a drink driving ban he received.
The case arose after the TD travelled to the All-Ireland football final on September 18th, 2016 with a friend.
He said he had two drinks before the match and had a a light meal following the game, before driving home to Offaly.
“On the way to drop my friend home, I was stopped by Gardaí and asked to participate in a breathalyzer test.”
“I did, so, and this test and a subsequent test at the local Garda station confirmed that I was over the legal alcohol limit.” he added.
“At the time, I had a learner driving permit because my previous provisional licence had lapsed. As such, the penalty for my offence was a €200 fine and a three-month driving ban.”
He said he subsequently secured and now holds a full clean driving licence.
“There has been some speculation about how someone of my age could have been driving on either a learner permit or provisional licence.”
The fact is, he added, that before the recent and proper reforms of the system, it was not uncommon for people of all ages and levels of experience to drive with either a provisional licence or learner permit. “However, this was bad practice, and I clearly should have regularised my position much sooner.”
He said he conducted a full examination of all records, following further media reports of other offences.
He admitted that he failed to display a tax disc when he parked in Tullamore fourteen years ago, for which, he said, he paid the fine.
‘A stupid mistake’
“My decision on September 18th, 2016 to drive home after consuming any alcohol was a stupid, stupid mistake.”
Cowen apologized to his family, An Taoiseach, the Government, his constituents and to the general public.
“It never happened before September 18th, 2016 and it has never happened since. It is a mistake for which I am profoundly sorry.”
He said he spoke to Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care [PARC] road safety group and the Irish Road Victims’ Association to offer an apology for “the impact and hurt that this event has obviously had on many victims”.
“I assure the house that I will invest my full energy and focus on the responsibility I have been given as a TD and a minister.”
‘The best of my ability’
He said he has had meetings with EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, and Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture.
He added that he met with Collite and Department of Agriculture forestry officials to agree short-term measures to overcome a potential crisis in the timber harvesting industry which “could gravely and severely affect our capacity to respond as promised to the ongoing housing crisis”.
“It is the likes of that work and future work of its kind that I would rather be remembered for. I will continue to represent the people of Laois and Offaly to the best of my ability.”
“I dedicate myself as well to deliver on the promise that is contained in the programme for government,” he added.
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