Minister Marine Barry Cowen sacked

Minister for the Marine, Barry Cowen, TD has been sacked in the light of a drink-driving debacle

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Barry Cowen, TD has been sacked in a surprise move by the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil party leader, Michaél Martin.

Deputy Cowen had been under pressure since it was revealed that he had lost his learners permit when he was caught drink-driving four years ago.

Earlier today, Michaél Martin had backed his Minister in the Dáil but this evening, the Taoiseach said that the President, on his advice, had terminated the appointment of Mr Cowen as a member of the Government.

On Twitter, Mr Cowen said the Taoiseach had informed him by phone that he was being removed from the office. “I am both surprised and disappointed with this decision,” he said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the Taoiseach had no longer confidence in the Minister and said there has clearly been some change in this case and with what happened.

Deputy Cowen had just served 17 days in the office after being appointed to the post on Saturday 27 June when the new coalition government was formed.

In the Dáil this evening, the Taoiseach said it was “a very sad day, for Barry, his family and for me”.

He said: “He has been completely clear and unambiguous regarding his drink driving offence, he gave a personal statement to this House on July the 7th in which he talked about the stupidity of his actions. 

“He accepted what he did was absolutely wrong and he apologised to all members.

“I accepted that his remorse was genuine and I accepted his apology. 

“When he was first confronted with the allegations Minister Cowen was immediately clear and emphatic about his drink-driving offence and understood the need to acknowledge this. 

“However, he was equally clear and emphatic that one detail of the allegation he was being presented with was completely untrue, namely that he sought to evade gardaí at the time.”

Mr Martin said that they have had “extensive discussions on this point last evening and again this morning when he shared with me for the first time the actual garda record under dispute”.

The Taoiseach added: “Following these discussions and having seen the garda report this morning, it was my view that it raised additional issues requiring further explanation and clarification”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said he made this clear to Mr Cowen and gave him space today to consider the matter further.

However, he said Mr Cowen decided not to address the matter publicly and will not make a further statement on the issue in the Dáil.

Mr Martin said: “This decision has created a situation where legitimate doubts and additional questions are being raised, and Government colleagues are expected to address these.

“This is simply untenable,” he added.

Mr Martin said he believed that Mr Cowen had an obligation to come before the Dáil, and that the issue was damaging to the ongoing work of the Government.

He added: “Throughout this I am conscious that there are important and legitimate legal processes underway where Deputy Cowen is questioning the accuracy of the garda record and seeking to establish how his personal information became public. I have sought to respect these processes and I would ask that colleagues do the same. This decision I have made is without prejudice to those proceedings.” 

In his tweets tonight, Mr Cowen said: “Previously I furnished the Taoiseach with all the facts about my drink driving conviction and the story that the Sunday Times proposed to publish about my alleged evasion of a Garda check point.

“In doing so I provided him with confidential details about my interaction with An Garda Siochana.

“I have made my position on these matters known publicly and I have acknowledged my wrong doing for something that occurred 4 years ago.

“I have sought an explanation – not as a government minister but as a citizen – as to how details relating to the incident were leaked to the media.

“The authorities have agreed to investigate the matter.

“One point warrants emphasis: at no time did I attempt to evade the Gardaí. Had I done so, the charges brought against me would, quite correctly, have been of a different tenor to those with which I was charged.

“I am responsible for the offence with which I was convicted 4 years ago not for an inaccurate Garda entry on Pulse about that event.

“Ten days ago and this afternoon the Taoiseach believed my failure of 2016 didn’t warrant my removal from office but he now appears to have changed his mind based on a Pulse report I gave him this morning.

“It is important to re-emphasise that report was leaked in contravention of the protections that I and every other citizen is entitled to expect in respect of their interaction with the Gardaí.

“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.”

The Taoiseach told the Dáil he had assigned the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to himself and would propose the appointment of a new member of the Government tomorrow.

Source: RTE News

Minister for Marine Barry Cowen sacked in drink-driving debacle

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