Garda file on Barry Cowen's drink-driving incident 'not quite as portrayed'

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By Cate McCurry, PA

The Taoiseach said a garda file in relation to Barry Cowen's drink-driving ban is "not quite as portrayed", the Dail has heard.

Micheal Martin said the Minister for Agriculture showed the garda record to him for the first time on Tuesday morning.

Mr Cowen "adamantly denies" evading or attempting to evade a garda checkpoint on the night he was found to be drink-driving in September 2016.

The allegations were made following an apparent disclosure of information by a member of An Garda Siochana.

The Garda Commissioner has referred the matter to the Ombudsman and the matter is now under investigation.

Mr Martin told the Dail during leaders' questions that his Fianna Fail colleague is "very, very concerned" that data related to his personal files may have been leaked.

He said he had a lengthy conversation with Mr Cowen last night and had sight of the disputed document this morning.

Mr Cowen is now seeking to have the Pulse record changed.

"He has made it very clear to me that he wants to pursue both issues through the mechanisms that are available to him to pursue," Mr Martin said.

"Under the Data Protection Commission, he's entitled to seek a correction of that particular record, insofar as he believes it doesn't accurately convey what transpired or implications can be taken from it that may not necessarily be the case.

"Secondly, he feels that the entire issue has become public because of the legal procurement of the information from as far as he's concerned.

"He feels that his rights have been transgressed in that regard and has been undermined, and he believes that he's entitled to due process in relation to both issues.

"He was clear to me that he wants to pursue his legal rights and his entitlements."

He made the comments after Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said that Mr Cowen failed to put all the facts about the case on record in the Dail.

Ms McDonald said: "We now have an unprecedented situation where a Government minister is disputing the gardai Pulse record of a drink- driving offence which he was involved in and looking to have that record changed."

Ms McDonald said Mr Cowen will have to appear before the Dail to answer further questions in relation to the allegations and incident.

"I am more concerned with what you knew as head of Government and you have confirmed that you did in fact know about the garda Pulse records, that you did in fact know that the allegation was that the Minister had sought to evade a garda checkpoint and that you knew that information as or before Minister Cowen was making his statement," Ms McDonald added.

"I find that extraordinary that you would stand over a Minister who has made an incomplete statement on a matter of this importance to the Dail."

Mr Martin replied: "I saw the document this morning myself and actually having seen the document, it's not quite as portrayed but nonetheless the document is there.

"He has very, very serious concerns about it and how the whole thing has developed in relation to how he's his own personal information was procured or was disseminated from the Pulse records."

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