It emerged during last week that our newly appointed Agriculture Minister served a three-month driving ban in 2016 after being found by Gardaí to be drink-driving in the aftermath of an All-Ireland football final.
To non-Irish readers it should be understood that if he was returning from an All-Ireland football final, then on the day he was one of hundreds of drivers who’d probably had one too many. The logical and reasonable limit of two to three pints that stood for years was changed to a point now where a mere half pint of beer could put you over the limit today. This raises the question then, is the driver being reckless or is the limit far too low?
Anyway, Cowen was also driving on a provisional licence at the time. He was issued with a fine and a three-month ban but did not appear in court as the amount of alcohol in his system did not reach the level required for prosecution. Now that’s interesting! The amount of alcohol in his system was so low that he couldn’t even be prosecuted. We learn from this that far from being an irresponsible piss-head behind the wheel, Barry had merely consumed maybe a sole glass of wine, perhaps with his lunch, and he was in no way impaired in his driving but was instead a victim of an over zealous stupid law.
Now when we say a law was broken we also say that the punishment must fit the crime, in this case, a three month driving ban and a fine. Nowhere is it suggested that Cowen flouted this so he did the crime and he did the time so to speak. Case closed and Barry has nothing now too apologise to anyone for in my opinion. It was four years ago and everyone has moved on with their lives.
Well, most people have but not Susan Gray, who founded PARC, (Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care on our roads). In 2006 after her husband Stephen died in a road traffic collision involving an unaccompanied learner driver in 2004, Susan decided to set up her pressure group PARC. She told RTÉ’s Prime Time last night that the Minister was ignoring the “elephant in the room” and said Cowen had not answered any of her group’s outstanding questions. In her case those questions involve whether he did or did not drive his car with ‘N’ or ‘L’ plates displayed.
Look a little closer at this though because the accident with a learner driver that her husband Stephan died in, is being used to garner support for her point of view and condemnation of the Minister. But no proof has been furnished to us to show that the learner driver in question was at fault for that accident and indeed, the word ‘accident’ denotes a lack of pre-meditated intent from either party. Accidents happen in all walks of life and while they are unfortunate we are stuck with them. Furthermore, can Susan guarantee us that if the learner driver on the day was displaying such plates then the accident would never have happened? No she cannot!
Of course, once Susan got her spoke in, another road safety campaigner who lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident involving an unaccompanied learner driver, invited Barry Cowen to visit their graves. I really loathe this kind of emotional blackmail. We all have sympathy with anybody who loses a loved one for whatever reason but don’t use it for self promotion.
The other thing that got to me about this storm in a teacup is that critics of Cowen, both inside and outside of politics, are trying to destroy his career and get him to resign. For example, Labour leader Alan Kelly called on Cowen to tell the Dáil, prior to his apology yesterday evening, whether he had ever driven without a driving licence. This is plain old points scoring and a bullshit question to boot. In the short history of this State we had a year designated by Government where people without a licence could simply buy one without as much as a driving lesson and thousands availed of it because it was the law that year, such is the calibre of our elected legislators. The truth about driving is that we all learn it through trial and error.
Then TD Paul Murphy said the fact that Cowen was permitted to make a statement to the Dáil without having to take questions from opposition leaders was not right. In English that means that Paul is miffed he didn’t get the chance to embarrass a sitting Minister in public, thus elevating his own self-important image in the voter’s eye.
But the biggest hypocrite in this must be the Taoiseach. Earlier yesterday. Micheál Martin said that no politician is above the law, and millions around the country spat out what they were drinking in bewilderment. Martin more than anybody knows that politicians here are above the law, in fact they make the fucking laws and worse than that, he knows that the rest of us know that too. Michael also knows, as we commoners know, that we have too many laws already and too few Gardai to enforce them. Like the rest of us he knows that many of the laws on our statute books make no sense at all, many are years out of date, many are obscure and not at all clear as to their intent and many are simply ignored by both the lawful and the lawless. It is technically still a crime for a taxi to be on the road in this country without a bale of hay on board to feed the horse, (that no longer pulls the taxi).
Add to that the fact that Michael barely got across the line in his bid to be the country’s leader, had only just appointed Cowen as Minister and was under assault from senior members of his own party who felt entitled to a Ministry themselves. Under such circumstances, why did he pick now to put the knife in Cowen’s back.
Where’s the leadership and which gallery is he playing to in his condemnation of his close colleague?