Barry Cowen, Fianna Fáil politician who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Laois–Offaly constituency since the 2020 Irish general election, is born in Clara, County Offaly, on August 28, 1967. Previously from 2011 to 2016 and from 2016 to 2020 he serves as TD for the Offaly constituency. He also serves as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine from June 2020 to July 2020.
Cowen is married with four children and is a full-time politician. His father, Bernard Cowen, was also a TD, Senator and Minister of State. His grandfather, Christy Cowen, was an Offaly County Councillor and a member of the Fianna Fáil National Executive. Another relation, Ernest Cowen, was also a member of the Fianna Fáil National Executive having been elected to its Committee of 15.
Cowen has served in various Fianna Fáil Front Bench roles such as Minister for Social Protection from 2011 to 2012, Spokesperson for Housing, Planning and Local Government from 2012 to 2018 and Spokesperson for Public Expenditure and Reform from 2018 to 2020. He represents Fianna Fáil in talks on government formation in 2016 and 2020.
In July 2020, it emerges that Cowen has a conviction for drunk driving. He is fined €200 and is disqualified from driving for three months. The incident occurs in September 2016, after an All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Mayo. He apologises for his “serious lapse of judgement.” The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) is asked by Garda Síochána to investigate the alleged leaking of information concerning Cowen’s drunk driving arrest. He accuses Gardaí of criminality for leaking allegations that he attempted to evade a garda checkpoint before he was caught drunk driving. He admits receiving a ban for drunk drinking but denies attempting to evade Gardaí. He issues a statement that the Garda record was “incorrect” and suggests he will take legal action against The Sunday Times, which first reported the story. He says that the leaks were a flagrant breach of criminal law and “my rights under data protection law” and that they were an “attempt to cause me the maximum personal and political harm.” Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne denies that it was he who leaked news of Cowen’s ban to the press. Eamon Dooley, the longest serving Fianna Fáil member of Offaly County Council, claims that a party member with a “grudge” leaked it to the media.
On July 14, 2020, after he refuses to resign the role of Minister for Agriculture, Cowen is sacked by Taoiseach Micheál Martin due to the controversy surrounding his conviction for drunk driving. In November 2020, it is reported that a barrister is to be questioned by GSOC in relation to the leak. In 2021, GSOC searches a Garda station in Munster in relation to the leak.
In July 2021, Cowen calls on Fianna Fáil to form a new “modern centre-left” alliance with the Labour Party for the next election.