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Pressure mounts for Cowen to answer Dail questions on drive ban

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Minister Barry Cowen apologised in the Dail last week

Minister Barry Cowen apologised in the Dail last week

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Minister Barry Cowen apologised in the Dail last week

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is refusing to say whether he thinks the Barry Cowen drink-driving scandal is an embarrassment for the fledgling Government.

Mr Ryan said his personal view on the matter was irrelevant and called for "clarity", echoing comments made earlier by his deputy leader Catherine Martin.

"I do fully agree that there are a range of issues that need to be explained," he said.

"I hope he can provide that clarity in the coming days. I think we need to be clear on what actually happened, who said what and what the record is."

Grilling

Pressure is mounting on Mr Cowen to face a Dail grilling about his drink-driving.

Sinn Fein has called on Taoiseach Micheal Martin to ask his Agriculture Minister to take questions from TDs.

Mr Cowen apologised in the Dail last week for the 2016 incident, which saw him disqualified from driving for three months.

His statement to the Dail was under rules that did not allow for questions.

Mr Cowen denied at the weekend that he tried to evade a garda when he was caught drink-driving.

He said the official garda record of the incident is "incorrect" and is demanding that it be changed.

Gardai had launched an internal probe into the possible leaking of information about Mr Cowen's ban.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will refer the matter to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) for investigation.

Senior Sinn Fein TD Louise O'Reilly said last night that Mr Cowen "needs to come into the Dail and answer questions".

She said he has disputed a garda account of the incident, and this "points to the need for him to come in".

She said the Taoiseach should ask him to do so.

Elsewhere, Ms Martin also said more "clarity" is needed from Mr Cowen on the drink-driving incident.

The Green Party has previously said there were outstanding questions on why he was still driving on a learner permit at the age of 49 when the incident occurred.

Ms Martin told Newstalk Radio that Mr Cowen had made a "serious mistake" and he recognised that.

She said he has "strenuously denied" allegations that he sought to evade gardai on the day.

"None of this distracts form the actual fact that it was a very serious and dangerous mistake that Barry did," Ms Martin said.

"More questions have arisen over the weekend and more clarity is needed."

Mr Cowen declined an invitation from RTE to comment further on the disputed account of the drink-driving incident in garda records.

Other ministers rallied around him.

Fianna Fail Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said Mr Cowen had made a "heartfelt" apology.

Asked if he should address the Dail, Mr McGrath said Mr Cowen strongly contests the allegations that emerged at the weekend and that issue is now with GSOC.

"I don't have anything to add to that," he said.

Fairness

Fine Gael Minister Heather Humphreys said Mr Cowen's drink-driving was "wrong", but stopped short of saying he needs to speak to the Dail about the issue again.

She said he had "paid a price" and added: "In fairness, people do make mistakes and it shouldn't be held against them for the rest of their lives."

Separately, Europe Minister Thomas Byrne denied being the source of the revelations about Mr Cowen's drink-driving and insisted he is on "good terms" with his Fianna Fail colleague.

He issued the denial after an online claim by Fianna Fail activist Ken McFadden.

Mr McFadden took to Twitter to claim it was Meath East TD Mr Byrne who was the source of the story.