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FF embroiled in controversy as Cowen and Kelleher say 'sorry'

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FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

FF’s Barry Cowen was stopped for drink driving

Fianna Fail has become embroiled in controversy just a week after entering government with two of the party's most senior politicians forced to issue public apologies.

Embattled Agriculture Minister Barry Cowen is under pressure to give a detailed account of the night he was stopped by gardai for drink driving.

He is also facing questions over how he managed to reach the age of 49 without a full driver's licence.

Yesterday, he committed to addressing the controversy in a Dáil statement.

But last night, in response to queries about his licence, Mr Cowen would only say he sat a test and received his full permit after his driving ban.

There are also questions emerging over who in Fianna Fail knew about the ban, with senior party figures admitting they had heard "rumours".

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail MEP Billy Kelleher has caused embarrassment for Taoiseach Micheal Martin after it was revealed he ignored quarantine rules so he could attend the vote for the Taoiseach.

Mr Kelleher ignored HSE guidelines requiring people arriving into Ireland to self-isolate for two weeks when he flew in on Friday June 26.

Mingle

Instead of quarantining, the Cork MEP attended a Dail sitting the next day in the National Convention Centre before travelling to Leinster House to mingle with colleagues.

He then travelled to Cork and returned to Dublin the following day and flew back to Brussels.

In a statement, Mr Kelleher said he made an "error of judgement" and apologised "unreservedly".

Speaking publicly for the first time since his driving ban was revealed, Mr Cowen said he was "humiliated" by his own actions and added he was "no example" to his own children.

"It was a serious lapse of judgment and I wasn't raised that way," he said.

The Offaly TD, who is former Taoiseach Brian Cowen's brother, said if any good was to arise from his drink driving ban it would be that others would think twice about getting behind the wheel of their car while over the limit.

Unaccompanied

"I was fortunate in that there was nobody hurt, injured or maimed or killed, thankfully, but that's not to say that will be the case in any other instance of a similar nature," he added.

Speaking on RTE's The Week in Politics, Mr Cowen said "of course" he drove his car unaccompanied while on a learner permit but says he has since acquired a full licence.

Social Democrat TD Jennifer Whitmore said Mr Cowen should address the Dail on his driving ban and the new minister said he would do so.