Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described Barry Cowen, the agriculture minister’s statement to the Dáil on Tuesday night, about his ban for drink driving, as an “abject apology”.
It was certainly an excruciating display of regret and there is no reason to doubt that Mr Cowen’s remorse is genuine.
However, questions remain unanswered, given that he was allowed to make an unchallenged statement on the matter to his fellow TDs.
Three months before his drink-driving ban, Mr Cowen was fined €200 for speeding while on a learner driving licence.
The question remains whether he was driving unaccompanied and whether he displayed L plates, as required by law.
Indeed, the practice of learners driving alone became so widespread that, in December 2018, new legislation, known as the Clancy amendment, came into force, allowing gardaí to fine car owners and seize vehicles.
Whatever about his fitness for high office, Mr Cowen should not be allowed to continue to characterise his actions as "a mistake".
A mistake is when you forget to feed the parking meter or to put up a disc, or come home from the shop with a tin of peas instead of a tin of beans.
Deliberately breaking the law in serious respects — speeding and drink driving — is far more than a mistake or a succession of mistakes. These are crimes and the fact cannot be ignored that lawmakers should not be law breakers.