Risking all by not ruling Lowry out - The next Government

LAST Wednesday, Mr Justice John Hedigan reminded us of how the Moriarty Tribunal concluded that Michael Lowry’s contributions to that investigation were “a litany of falsification and deception”.

Mr Justice Hedigan also recalled the tribunal’s “findings of perjury and bribery of a potential witness to support Mr Lowry’s false evidence”.

The judge, who was presiding in a case involving Mr Lowry’s challenge to the fact that he has been awarded just a third of the legal fees he incurred attending the tribunal, also reminded us that the tribunal found that solicitor’s files covering property deals in England involving Mr Lowry and businessman Denis O’Brien had been doctored. The tribunal blamed Mr Lowry for this intervention and questioned evidence given by Mr Lowry that reflected the altered files.

By any standard those are terribly damming indictments — though Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien strenuously challenge them to this day.

It must follow so, if you accept the tribunal’s and the court’s findings, that the repeated refusal by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to rule out the possibility of relying on Mr Lowry’s vote to help form a coalition after the election is a damming indictment of the idea of integrity in politics. It is also a worrying indictment of Mr Kenny’s judgement of an electorate who gave him a resounding mandate to “clean up politics” and instigate unprecedented reform five years ago.

It also raises another pretty basic question: if our political leaders can so very blithely say the findings of an Oireachtas-sanctioned tribunal and a court are irrelevant to how they go about their business, why should any of the rest of us bother to take any notice of them either?

That Mr Kenny’s evasions were echoed by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday shows a group-think that offends even the most basic principles of knowing right from wrong. Tragically, even if a second term as Taoiseach seems almost within Mr Kenny’s grasp, the situation is that black-or-white — something is either right or it’s wrong and in this instance the answer is pretty obvious.

Mr Kenny must know this but with every prevarication, he thoroughly undermines one of the central arguments advanced for voting to return the incumbents to power: “whatever about us, the other crowd are worse”. Possibly, but as this sorry vignette shows, when it comes to securing power Mr Kenny can be as venial as anyone.

As things stand, and unless tribunal findings are overturned, a pretty short list of questions remain: Why was Mr Lowry — “perjury, falsification, deception, bribery” — awarded any fees at all and how is the criminal investigation of these matters progressing? When might charges be brought?

Mr Kenny faces different questions but unless he, or his inner circle, can quickly assure an electorate sick to the very marrow of how corruption has eaten away at this society that Mr Lowry will have no hand, act or part in forming the next government, then he is already on the road to snatching defeat from the jaws of what might be a famous victory.

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