Crime And Punishment


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.

53 thoughts on “Crime And Punishment

  1. ollie

    why not go further Dan? ban candidates who are not qualified, teachers, publicans, journalists all have no place in our parliament. also ban liars and those who go back on their election promises. in fact, why not ban those who break any laws, for example making unlawful contacts with the Gardai?

    1. Dan Boyle

      You tell who made unlawful contacts with the Gardaí, Ollie, and I might take your attempt to debate seriously. This incessant need you have to want to contradict whatever I say is pretty childish.

  2. Cian

    Dan, we live in a democracy.
    We, the people, vote for who should represent us. And much as I personally dislike the thoughts of Lowry in the Dáil – it is the wishes of his constituents.

    “It should be sufficient for the moving of a court action by the DPP on the potential breach of law, to require any legislator to vacate their office.” No, no and no.

    1. Dan Boyle

      We live in a democracy is not something I need to be told. Many democratic countries have such laws. There they are used rarely and under strict thresholds. Currently a TD can serve 5 months and six days of a prison sentence, and still not be required to resign.
      I’m not so naive not to believe that the Barabbas Syndrome is a large part of Lowry’s appeal. In the absence of a resignation culture where should our law stand on disqualification to public office.

      1. Cian

        “Many democratic countries have such laws. There they are used rarely and under strict thresholds.”
        Do you think Lowry would have been barred under such laws?

        And would such laws prohibit the likes of DeValera, Mandella or Adams going for election?

          1. Dan Boyle

            Their incarcerations. Spell check unfriendly. And yes after the Moriarty Tribunal findings Lowry would have been prohibited from standing again for public office.

          2. Rob_G

            The burden of evidence required for an adverse finding from a tribunal is less than is required for a conviction in a court of law.

            You are talking about depriving someone of their constitutional rights, a very serious proposition. I don’t think that this something that we should be doing on the basis of evidence that would be insufficient to secure a conviction in a court of law.

        1. Rob_G

          Do you think Lowry would have been barred under such laws?

          Indeed – Lowry, shady as he is, has never been convicted of any crime.

        2. ahjayzis

          Someone who sold out our country’s interests for personal gain has no place in our institutions. A Tribunal of Inquiry found this – his voters can’t absolve him of it.

          Getting a whopping 16% of the vote in Tipperary isn’t a pardon, babes.

  3. bisted

    …thankfully, the voters of Tipp compensated for Lowry by giving us Mattie and AK47…the electoral system never ceases to amaze by some of the eijits that manage to get elected…you could write a book about it…

  4. Gearóid

    Granted, pasting from wikipedia here, so open to correction:

    The 28th Government of Ireland (7 May 2008 – 9 March 2011) was formed following the resignation of Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach on 6 May 2008 and the subsequent election of Brian Cowen as Ireland’s 12th head of government. It was initially composed of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats and supported by independent TDs Jackie Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Finian McGrath.

    1. Tina Tequila

      yep, Dan had several opportunities to do something about Lowry and didn’t.

      nice ad for his buke all the same

    2. Dan Boyle

      Expected this. However those independents voted for Taoiseach or subsequently supported the government, they were not part of the government. FF and the Greens had a working majority without any of the independents. Or the PDs who didn’t participate in negotiations on the programme for government, merely signing what had been agreed.

      1. Gearóid

        “…they were not part of the government”

        Good for them so, they didn’t even take part in the government but the Green Party – at the very least – acquiesced in their largesse.

        CONTROVERSIAL TD Michael Lowry and former Independent deputy Jackie Healy-Rae were each given three positions on state boards to hand out to supporters as part of a secret deal struck with Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen.

        The Irish Independent has learned the six posts — worth tens of thousands of euro a year in payments and expenses — were a key part of the deals reached with Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae to ensure their support for the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition.

          1. italia'90

            What a condescending and arrogant answer to post in reply to a perfectly well made factually correct point.
            It appears you and Lowry have much in common.
            Well done Dan.

          2. Dan Boyle

            Again wrong. Greens had an internal process for appointing to State bodies, which included an independent skills accessor, in the absence of state appoint system which we wanted. There was no agreement as to how many Greens, but on most appointments Greens proposals were accepted very often for people who were Greens.

        1. Dan Boyle

          Then you tell how it any affect whatever on the workings of that government. Other than placating the egos of the people involve. Of course its the snowflake tendency if some who feel free to condemn but can’t accept a strenuous response in return.

          1. italia'90

            It’s merely optics then Dan?
            Grubby little deals were being done by your partners in government, jobs for the boyo’s! How many state board positions were doled out to friends of the Green party? Was Deirdre de Burca’s appointment to the Senate part of the deal too?
            You see Dan, for the voting public, who are quite optimistic about the caliber of their politicians, this looks like more of the same, but from a different shower of charlatans.
            In my opinion, it proves that ye were willing to turn a blind eye as long as ye got your slice of the cake, or nostril in the trough if you prefer?
            You continually postulated that the Greens didn’t know what was going on during the night of the bank guarantee.
            Pull the other one Dan.
            And here, calling people snowflakes for criticising your opinion piece is hardly a good debating tactic. I’d expect that level of ad hominem from the alt-right.
            Again, well done Dan.

  5. Jake38

    Sadly, the Irish get the politicians they deserve who reflect well the basest elements of the Irish soul. No one, however, deserves the appalling disaster that is the Irish judicial system.

  6. Sentient Won

    Democracy is so annoying isn’t it Dan.

    All those smelly people voting the wrong way for the wrong candidates and here’s you reduced to metaphorically checking down the back of the Broadsheet couch for some spare change publicity.

    Life is unfair to an Ex-TD and Ex-Senator. :(

    Now, tell us again how turf is killing the planet. (That’s always good for a laugh).

    1. ahjayzis

      It’s like the word and meaning of Mediocre has gained sentience and written a comment.

      What a sad, mediocre thing you are.

  7. Rob_G

    I would go further and allow the public the right to convene recall elections

    – how would this work? I would predict petition after petition calling on the resignation of honest and hardworking legislators organised by their political opponents.

      1. Rob_G

        But how would this be established?

        “.. allow the public

        This gives visions of the full-time protestor bandwagon brigade calling for the head of (for example) Joan Burton, merely for the fact that she introduced legislation that they did not like.

        1. Dan Boyle

          Worst case scenario is never a case for no action being taken. Any law would have to be sufficiently tight.

  8. Adama

    Sorry Dan but even though corporal punishment was banned in schools it still went on regardless. I remember one particular maths class where the teacher spent 20 minutes beating someone around because he discovered the student’s Dad was a FF councillor and as a blueshirt this inequity couldn’t be left unaddressed. So knocking 7 shades of s**** out of the son made him feel a whole lot better.

    Happy Days.

        1. anyone

          imagine if he’d found out the lad’s Dad was an ex Green still pontificating at the taxpayers expense on his absurd pension

  9. ahjayzis

    How would a recall election work in a PR system?

    If the TD being recalled got in on the 9th count with say 5% of first preferences – in the recall election whoever stood for the party who came first would win almost by default.

    How is it not just a mechanism for larger parties to steal seats?

    1. Dan Boyle

      I don’t they were changed specifically for him, but they have changed while he was facing bankruptcy. He should have resigned over not making social insurance payments, regardless of the good work he has done over the Gardaí.

      1. Johnny

        Thanks Dan,many thought the “hit man” interview with B & F,was enough to disqualify him from public office.
        As far as I know he’s the only member to face and be declared bankrupt in Ireland and UK while sitting.
        The rule change was very cloak and dagger,surprised a lot off people as there’s still some validity to the old rules.

        1. Dan Boyle

          I think the process of changing the rules may have started with John Perry who had been a TD in the previous Dáil.

  10. david

    A few lashes of the cat followed by cauterising the wounds with salt and a simple bandage would be more effective and cheaper for certain crimes
    Just think of the jail space saved that would be available to jail all that have not learnt the lesson plus rapists molesters murderers for the rest of their human lives

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