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Barry Cowen apologises in Dail for ‘grave’ error over drink-driving

He said his subsequent ‘humiliation’ will hopefully serve to highlight the ‘terrible dangers and consequences’ of such offending.

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Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen apologised in the Dail for a ‘grave’ error of judgment (Niall Carson/PA)

Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen apologised in the Dail for a ‘grave’ error of judgment (Niall Carson/PA)

Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen apologised in the Dail for a ‘grave’ error of judgment (Niall Carson/PA)

Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen has apologised in the Dail for a “grave” error of judgment following his 2016 drink-driving conviction.

He said his subsequent “humiliation” will hopefully serve to highlight the “terrible dangers and consequences” of such offending.

Mr Cowen was returning home from an All-Ireland football final in Dublin.

It is a mistake for which I am profoundly sorryBarry Cowen

He admitting taking two drinks before the fixture and said: “My decision in September 2016 to drive home after consuming any alcohol was a stupid, stupid mistake.

“It never happened before the 18th of September 2016 and it has never happened since.

“It is a mistake for which I am profoundly sorry.”

He said he consumed a light meal before setting off and was subsequently stopped and breathalysed by gardai.

At the time he was holding a legal driving permit because his provisional licence had lapsed.

He was fined 200 euros and given a three-month driving ban.

He added: “Criticism that I have attracted for such a serious lapse of judgment is fully deserved.

“This grave error and my subsequent humiliation will hopefully serve to highlight the terrible dangers and consequences of drink-driving.”

The Fianna Fail TD  for the Laois–Offaly constituency told fellow deputies he now holds a full, clean licence.

Before the “recent and proper” legal reforms he said it was not uncommon for people of all ages to drive without a full licence.

“This was bad practice and I clearly should have regularised my position much earlier.”

He admitted receiving parking and speeding fines over the years and said a drip feed of new information in the media about such matters could be damaging.

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Barry Cowen disclosed an additional failure to display a tax disc 14 years ago (Niall Carson/PA)

Barry Cowen disclosed an additional failure to display a tax disc 14 years ago (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Barry Cowen disclosed an additional failure to display a tax disc 14 years ago (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Cowen disclosed an additional failure to display a tax disc while parked in Tullamore 14 years ago, for which he was fined.

He said such offences should not be conflated with the more serious one of drink-driving.

Mr Cowen was appointed by Taoiseach Micheal Martin to the agriculture portfolio as part of the new Coalition following February’s election.

He did not tell his leader about the offence before his elevation.

On Tuesday evening Mr Cowen said he wanted to offer the Dail an explanation out of “courtesy and respect”.

No questions were allowed following his personal statement.

PA