Barry Cowen sacked as minister after drink-driving controversy

Former Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin sacked the Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen on Tuesday night after Mr Cowen refused to make a second public statement about a drink-driving ban imposed on him four years ago.

In a dramatic late statement to the Dáil, Mr Martin announced the removal of Mr Cowen from the Government, saying a Garda report on the drink-driving incident raised additional issues that Mr Cowen has refused to address publicly.

The Taoiseach said this was untenable and undermined the work of the Government.

In a statement, Barry Cowen said he was surprised and disappointed with the decision.

He also queried why the Taoiseach has publicly backed him on Monday afternoon and withdrew that support later in the day.

Mr Cowen strongly insists he did not try to evade gardaí when he was stopped for the drink-driving offence, and said the decision has undermined and potentially prejudiced his entitlement to fair process.

The Irish Examiner is reporting that sources close to the events said Mr Cowen “would not budge an inch” from his position to not make any further public comment on the matter.

Those sources maintain that the Taoiseach was of the view that it was simply not possible to refuse to answer any questions in public.

Commenting on the developments, Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said the Taoiseach needs to explain why his position changed so rapidly.

"These are parties that talked about the strong and stable government that people wanted after the election. They certainly haven't got stability but what they have got is chaos so far from this government," he said.

"I think people do deserve to know what has happened in relation to, on the one hand, the Taoiseach in the Dáil [initially] backing Barry Cowen to only a couple of hours later sacking Barry Cowen. That to me isn't strong or stable, that is chaotic."

Mr Cowen's successor in the Department of Agriculture will be appointed today.

It is expected to be Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary – though Thomas Byrne, Charlie McConalogue and Anne Rabbitte have also been mentioned.

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