I raise the issue of the sacking of the former Minister, Deputy Cowen. Many were left scratching their heads as to what changed between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. yesterday. The Taoiseach moved very swiftly from fully backing his man to sacking him. People wonder whether the Taoiseach learned something new and whether there is another twist in the tale or another piece of information. The truth, however, is that the Taoiseach knew this whole sorry story from the very beginning, unlike the rest of us who learned of it piecemeal. Did the Taoiseach share the full story with the Tánaiste and with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, on 4 July, when he learned the full story, or did he feed it to them piecemeal?
He had the full story and he failed to act. That is the truth and that is the problem. He accepted an apology from the then Minister, Deputy Cowen, which we all, including myself, believe was absolutely genuine. The Taoiseach, however, also chose to stand by someone who was challenging a Garda record and account and who had sought to avoid a Garda checkpoint according to that account. He allowed him to give an incomplete statement to the Dáil and he failed to act for a week before it all unravelled yesterday on the floor of the Dáil. This raises very serious questions about the Taoiseach as Head of Government because it was only when his lack of judgment was exposed that he chose to act. In a very short period, he went from backing the then Minister, Deputy Cowen, to sacking him. Tá ceisteanna don Taoiseach mar cheannaire an Rialtais. Laistigh de tamall gearr chuaigh sé ó chosaint Teachta Cowen go dtí é a chur as a phost.
I have a series of questions for the Taoiseach. He said in the Dáil yesterday that he had seen the document, the PULSE record, that morning and that "having seen it, I can say that it is not quite as it has been portrayed." The Taoiseach therefore actively moved to play down the content of the Garda PULSE record. However, by 9 p.m. last night, he said that the issues in that same record were so serious and raised such fundamental questions that they had to be addressed and that he had moved to sack Deputy Cowen because he would not deal with these issues before the Dáil. This raises two questions. Did the Taoiseach mislead the Dáil by playing down the content of that PULSE record? If that is not the case, what did he learn after 2 p.m. yesterday? When he sacked the then Minister, Deputy Cowen, he said that he had asked or instructed him to answer the legitimate and serious questions arising from the Garda PULSE record in the Dáil, yet only hours earlier he had voted against bringing Deputy Cowen before the Dáil to do just that.
The Taoiseach confirmed yesterday that he had been made aware of the allegation that Deputy Cowen avoided a Garda checkpoint and that he spoke to him the weekend before last on this matter. That was prior to Deputy Cowen making what was to be a full statement to the Dáil. The Taoiseach let that go. He allowed an incomplete statement to stand on the record of the Dáil. The Taoiseach seems to have sacked Deputy Cowen for his failure or refusal to answer questions. I hope he will now, as Head of Government, answer questions on the issues he needs to clarify.