Irish minister fired two weeks after new government formed

Credit: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN, July 14 (Reuters) - An Irish government minister from the party of Prime Minister Micheál Martin was dismissed on Tuesday just over two weeks after his Fianna Fail party joined government for the first time in a decade.

Martin, whose party lost power in 2011 after being forced to accept a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, said he had been forced to fire Minister for Agriculture Brian Cowen weeks after news emerged of a drink-driving prosecution.

"I wish to announce for the information of the Dail (parliament) that the president, on my advice, this evening terminated the appointment of Deputy Barry Cowen as a member of the government," Martin told parliament.

"I will propose the appointment of a new member of the government tomorrow."

Martin was elected prime minister on June 27 as part of a coalition with longtime rival Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Cowen acknowledged two weeks ago that he had been caught driving over the maximum alcohol limit in 2016. In recent days, he denied an allegation that he tried to evade a police checkpoint.

On Tuesday, Cowen said he had been informed by Martin that he was being removed from office. "I am both surprised and disappointed with this decision," he said in a Twitter post. Cowen, 52, is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Brian Cowen.

Martin said his decision was due to the fact that Cowen had not addressed the latest allegations against him publicly.

The situation was "simply untenable and damaging to the ongoing work of the government," he said.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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