Europe

Barry Cowen: Irish minister sacked over drink-drive row

Barry Cowen was appointed Irish agriculture minister in June 2020 Image copyright RTE
Image caption Barry Cowen was appointed Irish agriculture minister in June 2020

Ireland's Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen has been sacked.

The Fianna Fáil TD said he was "disappointed" with the decision.

He had been at the centre of a controversy around a drink driving ban imposed in September 2016.

In a statement issued following his termination on Tuesday evening, Mr Cowen said he wanted to emphasise that "at no time did I attempt to evade" the Garda checkpoint.

He was stopped at the checkpoint and breathalysed on his way home to Co Offaly from Dublin after the All-Ireland football final four years ago.

Mr Cowen served a three-month disqualification from driving at the time.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin said he "terminated" Mr Cowen's appointment as a member of government.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin was speaking in the Irish parliament on Tuesday

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Martin said that Mr Cowen had "adamantly denied any attempt to avoid a checkpoint", according to RTÉ News.

The taoiseach said: "This is a very sad day for Barry, his family and for me. He has been a very committed public representative, very diligent and very dedicated.

"Over the course of the last 10 days he has been the subject of significant criticism and condemnation for a road traffic offence that took place in 2016."

The taoiseach said he had seen a garda report raising "additional issues requiring further explanation".

'Untenable'

Mr Martin added: "I made this clear to him (Mr Cowen) and gave him space today to consider the matter further.

"However he has decided that he is not prepared to address this allegation publicly and will not make any further statement or answer any questions on this issue in this house.

"This decision has created a situation where legitimate doubts and questions are being raised and government colleagues are expected to address these and this is simply untenable."

Mr Cowen said he had been informed of the taoiseach's decision by phone.

In his statement, issued on Twitter, he added: "Unfortunately the decision of the taoiseach to remove me from office, when he supported me this afternoon in the Dail, has undermined and potentially prejudiced my entitlement to fair process."