From top: Michael Lowry with former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan and former Taniaste and Fine Gael Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald at the Passing Out Parade in Templemore Garda College, Tipperary in 2016l Dan Boyle
Corporal punishment was made illegal in Irish schools two years after I had completed my Leaving Certificate. Throughout my tenure in the Irish school system, along with tens of thousands of others, I ran the risk of being hit with some class of implement that would instantly be turned into a verb – a cane, a belt, or a leather. All in the name of the Irish educational system.
One particular teacher of mine (thought outside of the school as being quite an urbane man) would offer students their choice of punishment. They could either have a ‘Clocker’ or a ‘Lowry’, dependent on which side of his hand he would use. If I remember rightly the Lowry was the backhander.
This unwelcome memory popped into my head when I was recently driving through Tipperary. Flicking around on the radio I heard a local TD being interviewed on the TIPP FM morning show.
The political existence of Michael Lowry is a proverbial slap in the face of any urbane, Irish liberal. On this programme the interviewer was polite and deferential. Lowry gave the impression of being composed, almost statesman like.
On the surface at least it could be understood why a sufficient number of Tipperary voters want him to continue to be their Dáil representative.
He was arguing for a business as usual approach for a Bord na Mona bog in Littleton in the heart of his constituency. His tone of voice conveyed plausibility, even if the content of what he was saying was utter nonsense. When he mentioned ‘eco-tourism’ as part of the bog’s future, I just burst out laughing.
It is now almost a quarter of century since he had to resign as a government minister. Since then he has been pursued and prosecuted by several agencies of the State, all the while remaining as a member of our national parliament. This is both a tribute to his own resilience, but also an utter condemnation of the tortuous nature of our judicial process.
I believe we have long gone past a time when we need to create laws that restrict the right to be a political candidate, when certain conditions and circumstances exist.
I would go further and allow the public the right to convene recall elections, with the Houses of the Oireachtas also being able to permanently expel members after an appropriate but significant vote.
If such powers existed in the past people like Liam Lawlor and Ivan Callelly would not have been able to hang on.
It should be sufficient for the moving of a court action by the Director of Public Prosecution (an independent nonpartisan law officer) on the potential breach of law, to require any legislator to vacate their office.
There are others in the current Oireachtas whose application of tax and social insurance payments, would also be in the frame of having such legislation applied to them.
Of course this legislation could be abused by future governments, targeting individuals in order to strengthen their position. I would be confident that sufficient safeguards could be built into the process.
We might even call such a law ‘The Lowry Law’. It would allow me to remember the name positively, and for something other than the back of my less than urbane teacher’s hand.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Top pic: Rollingnews
Dan Boyle’s ‘Making Up The Numbers – Smaller Parties and Independents in Irish Politics‘ published by the History Press is available at all good bookstores now.