Gardaí have refuted suggestions from a former Fianna Fáil Minister that the force provides vetting for ministerial appointments. 

Ex-TD Conor Lenihan claimed on RTÉ Radio earlier today that "before a ministerial appointment is confirmed, a vetting procedure is carried out to ensure is nothing outstanding or untoward in the person's record".

Mr Lenihan claimed details of the Barry Cowen controversy were "rather puzzling" as a result. 

However, in response to queries from RTÉ, An Garda Síochána refuted the former minister's claims. 

In a statement it said: "An Garda Síochána does not provide security vetting for ministerial appointments. An Garda Síochána did not receive any such request in respect of the current Government or on previous occasions."

Earlier, Conor Lenihan told RTÉ's Today with Sarah McInerney it was "rather puzzling" that the garda Pulse record of Barry Cowen was not brought to the Taoiseach's attention before he was appointed as a minister.

He said if the Taoiseach did not know that this was on the record with regard to Mr Cowen, "then clearly something must be amiss or wrong with the vetting procedure itself".

The Garda has now confirmed that the force does not vet ministerial appointments.

Mayo TD Dara Calleary has been appointed Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine following Mr Cowen's sacking, while Dublin West TD Jack Chambers will take over for Mr Calleary as Government Chief Whip.

Mr Martin said last night that the Garda file relating to Mr Cowen's drink-driving offence in 2016 had raised issues that required more explanation.

The Taoiseach said it was untenable for members of Government to address these concerns in the Dáil while Mr Cowen was refusing to do so, and the issue had become damaging to the ongoing work of Government.

However, Mr Cowen said the decision to remove him from office had undermined his entitlement to fair process.

Mr Cowen, who was in office for just 17 days, strenuously denies any allegation that he attempted to avoid a Garda checkpoint in 2016.


Read More:
Live: Opposition seeks answers to Cowen sacking
Barry Cowen sacked as Minister for Agriculture
'Political life, brutal at times like this, rolls on'
Taoiseach tells Dáil garda file on Barry Cowen 'not quite as portrayed' 


During Leaders' Questions, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy asked what had happened yesterday afternoon to change the Taoiseach's mind about Barry Cowen's future.

She said the spotlight is firmly now on the Taoiseach.

Ms Murphy said it was in the new Government's interest that Barry Cowen addressed all of the issues and that this was a bad start for the new Government.

Fianna Fáil TD and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the first time the Taoiseach saw the garda report on Mr Cowen's drink-driving ban was when he was given a copy of it by Mr Cowen yesterday morning.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr McGrath said his understanding was that Mr Cowen had received the file on Monday and he voluntarily gave a copy to the Taoiseach.

He said Mr Martin had no automatic right to that report as it was a personal file.

He said the Taoiseach discussed it further with Mr Cowen and it "reaffirmed his view that the issue should be dealt with in public, in the Dáil chamber and Barry chose not to do so".

Mr McGrath said the Taoiseach was left with "an extraordinarily difficult decision to make" and "arrived at the view that it was not politically sustainable for Barry not to come in and deal with this head on".

He said the Taoiseach felt Mr Cowen's removal from Government was ultimately necessary because "this issue had become a huge political distraction from the ongoing work of Government".

Mr Cowen said last night that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision to sack him, and it had also undermined his entitlement to fair process. 

He was stopped at a checkpoint and breathalysed on his way home to Co Offaly from Dublin after the All-Ireland football final four years ago. 

He was found to be over the limit and issued with a fixed charge penalty notice, €200 fine and disqualified from driving for three months. 

Mr Cowen addressed the controversy in the Dáil last week when he said he was profoundly sorry for the offence, which he said was a stupid mistake. 

On Sunday, Mr Cowen issued a statement in response to an article in the Sunday Times newspaper. 

He said he did not evade or attempt to evade a garda on the night he was found to be drink-driving. 

Mr Cowen's statement said the article refers to an incorrect garda record dealing with the incident, despite the fact that his solicitors wrote to the newspaper in advance of publication. 

Yesterday, Garda Headquarters confirmed that it had referred to the Garda Ombudsman Commission an allegation by Mr Cowen that a garda committed a criminal act. 

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris formally referred the matter to GSOC under Section 85 of the Garda Síochána Act. 

The Taoiseach told the Dáil yesterday afternoon that Mr Cowen had been "taken aback" when it was first put to him by a reporter that he had turned away from the checkpoint. 

"He was very adamant about that to me, he said there was no issue made of it at the time and no reference to it at the time", Mr Martin said. 

Yesterday evening, Mr Martin told the Dáil that the President, on his advice, had terminated the appointment of Mr Cowen as a member of the Government. 

However, he said Mr Cowen  had decided not to address the matter publicly and would not make a further statement on the issue in the Dáil. 

On Twitter last night, Mr Cowen said he had given the Taoiseach all the facts about his conviction for drink-driving and gave him "confidential details about my interaction with An Garda Síochána". 

He said he is seeking an explanation as to how details relating to the 2016 incident were leaked to the media.

Sinn Féin's housing spokesperson said the events surrounding the sacking of Mr Cowen "raises fundamental questions about trust and honesty" and that the Taoiseach has further questions to answer today.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Eoin Ó Broin said: "I don't find it credible that if Barry Cowen knew about this as the Sunday Times has alleged on 4 July, I don't find it credible that Micheál Martin didn't know before the former Agriculture Minister took to the floor in the Dáil last week."

He said that "today the Taoiseach will have to answer the questions. What did he know? When did he know it? Why did it take so long to act?".

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett, meanwhile, described the series of events surrounding Mr Cowen's sacking as "very strange" and "raises as many questions as it answers".

Speaking on the same programme, he said: "I find it very strange that one minute Micheál Martin is saying he shouldn't have to answer questions and shortly afterwards he sacks him for refusing to answer questions."

He said on a personal level nobody was looking for anybody to be sacked, but people were asking for transparency on revelations that had emerged on a very serious issue which became more serious over the weekend.

However, he said, Mr Cowen might still have his job if the Government agreed last week to allow him to answer questions about the revelations that had emerged.