Minister Cowen: ‘I will be instructing my lawyers to take all necessary steps to vindicate my good name’

The Sunday Times has today (Sunday, July 12) published an article referring to an incorrect Garda record dealing with the incident which occurred on September 18, 2016, despite the fact that my solicitors wrote to the newspaper in advance of publication.”

That was the opening line of a statement issued today – to AgriLand – on behalf of the new Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Barry Cowen.

The statement continued: “I did not evade, or attempt to evade, a Garda. Such an act would constitute a serious criminal offence and I was not charged with such an offence.

“On being informed of its existence I sought a copy of this incorrect record and am taking steps under the Data Protection Act to have it corrected.”

This morning’s statement went on to say: “This incorrect Garda record can only have come into the possession of the newspaper through a criminal act.

It is a criminal offence for a member of An Garda Siochana to disclose any information obtained in the course of his or her duties. I am informed that An Garda Siochana has commenced a criminal investigation into the source of this leak.

“It is obvious that the disclosure of this information at this time, in flagrant breach of the criminal law and my rights under data protection law, is a disgraceful attempt to cause me the maximum personal and political harm.

“By publishing this story the Sunday Times has consciously participated in and facilitated this and I will be instructing my lawyers to take all necessary steps to vindicate my good name and data protection rights.”

Minister Cowen’s statement to the Dáil

Earlier this week, on Tuesday evening (July 7), Minister Cowen made a statement to the Dáil in which he addressed a driving ban he received in 2016 for drink driving – apologising and describing it as a “stupid mistake”.

Also Read: Minister Cowen spells out the facts in Dáil address

He explained: “On September 18, 2016, I travelled to attend the All-Ireland football final with a friend. Before the match, I consumed two drinks and following the game, had a light meal before driving home to Offaly.

“On the way to drop my friend home, I was stopped by Gardaí and asked to participate in a breathalyser test,” he said, adding that he was found to be over the legal limit.

“At the time, I held 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. I subsequently secured and now hold 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 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.

“My decision in September 2016 to drive home after consuming any alcohol was a stupid, stupid mistake. It never happened before September 18, 2016, and it has never happened since. It is a mistake for which I am profoundly sorry.”

Noting that he has apologised to his family, the Taoiseach, the government, constituents and the general public, Minister Cowen added:

Earlier today, I spoke with Susan Gray of Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care [PARC] road safety group and Donna Price of the Irish Road Victims Association, offering them an apology for the impact and hurt that this event has obviously had on many victims.

“I also offered to help and assist insofar as I can, or others should, to help rid us of the scourge of drunk driving and the example that I set.

“I assure the house that I will invest my full energy and focus on the responsibility I have been given as a deputy and a minister.”