Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

21.17 7 Jul 2020


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Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen has apologised in the Dáil for his 2016 driving ban - saying driving after having a drink was a "stupid, stupid mistake".

Minister Cowen also said it was "not uncommon" for people of all ages to drive with either a provisional licence or learners' permit at the time.

He made a statement in the Dáil tonight after it emerged he had a three month ban for drink driving in 2016.

Minister Cowen told deputies he wanted to "officially put on the record" the facts of the incident.

He confirmed he had consumed two drinks before attending the All Ireland Football Final in Dublin in 2016, before eating a light meal after the match.

While driving home to Offaly, he was stopped and breathalysed.

After being found to be over the legal alcohol limit, he was given a €200 fine and a three-month driving ban.

He held a learner drivers' permit at the time as his previous provisional licence had lapsed.

He said: "Before the recent and proper reforms of the system, it was not uncommon for people of all ages and level of experiences to drive with either a provisional or learners' permit. However, this was bad practice - and I clearly should have regularised my position much sooner."

After reports of previous parking and speeding fines, Minister Cowen said he has examined his records and found the only additional, unreported event he was able to identify was "a failure to display a parking disc while parked in Tullamore 14 years ago".

In terms of the driving ban, he said: "My decision in September 2016 to drive home after consuming any alcohol was a stupid, stupid mistake... it had never happened before the 18th September 2016, and it has never happened since.

"It is a mistake for which I am profoundly sorry.

"This grave error and my subsequent humiliation will hopefully to highlight the terrible dangers and consequences of drink driving."

The Fianna Fáil politician said he has apologised to his family, the Taoiseach, to the Government, to his constituents and to the general public - and has also spoken to road safety groups about the issue.

He told TDs he wanted to sincerely apologise to his peers and colleagues.

He pledged to now give his full focus to his work as a TD and Minister.

A Dáil push to make Minister Cowen answer questions in the Chamber was defeated by the Government earlier today.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin earlier said his focus was on the business of government and he accepts Barry Cowen's apology.

Main image: Barry Cowen. Picture: Oireachtas TV

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