Fine Gael's Reverse Judas Kiss on Lowry's cheek is an affront to probity in politics
Published 28/01/2016 | 02:30
The Reverse Kiss of Judas placed on Independent TD Michael Lowry's cheek by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton during an excruciating interview conducted by Gavin Jennings on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland', tells you all you need to know about Fine Gael's views on probity in politics.
According to the Gospels, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him, prompting Jesus's arrest by the Roman soldiers who crucified him.
Yesterday morning, Minister Bruton, flailing wildly under Jennings' calm and tenacious line of questioning, went into Reverse Judas Kiss mode.
Mr Jennings repeatedly asked Mr Bruton why Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Fine Gael party would not rule out Michael Lowry to prop it up in the next Dáil.
Mr Jennings pointed out that other Cabinet colleagues - including Health Minister Leo Varadakar and Environment Minister Alan Kelly - had made strong statements to the effect that Mr Lowry would not be a suitable person to include in any future government they inhabited.
Falling over himself not to rule out Mr Lowry, currently trying to halt a criminal trial - where he faces four charges of tax evasion - Mr Bruton could not bring himself to betray or disown the former Fine Gael Communications Minister.
Here are the abridged interview highlights.
Jennings: Why can't your party leader rule out forming a government that would include Michael Lowry?
Bruton: Well I think, eh, Enda Kenny has made it very clear that Fine Gael doesn't intend to rely on Michael Lowry or any other such Independents . . .
Jennings: Yes, why can't he [Kenny] rule it [Lowry] out?
Bruton: . . . who are designed to defeat Michael Lowry and the likes of Mattie McGrath. Because they [Independents] just come with their shopping list politics and they create instability. So, we're not going to have any truck with them. We are aiming to deliver a majority based on Fine Gael and Labour that will implement an economic plan.
Jennings: Yes, I know that's your aim, but to paraphrase [new Central Bank Governor] Philip Lane, what if you're wrong? Can you be as categorical as Alan Kelly, can you rule out having to look for the support of Michael Lowry after the election?
The proverbial cock had crowed more than three times in as many minutes, but still Mr Bruton could not betray Michael Lowry.
Mr Jennings, a former A&E doctor adept at handling near death experiences and evasive patients, persisted, asking Mr Bruton if he accepted it was appropriate to single out Michael Lowry given the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal.
"Can you rule out looking for his [Lowry's] support after the election?" he asked.
"Look, we expelled Michael Lowry from our party, you know, that is as categorical as we can be," replied Mr Bruton in sheer frustration.
But is it as categorical as Fine Gael can be?
If it expelled Michael Lowry following publication of the Moriarty Tribunal report, what does it make of yesterday's ruling by the High Court which condemned Mr Lowry's "litany of falsification and deception" including, critically, falsification of a solicitor's files?
Upholding a decision by the payments-to-politician inquiry to pay only one-third of Mr Lowry's legal costs, High Court judge Mr Justice John Hedigan said that - unlike the late Charles J Haughey - Mr Lowry had deliberately mislead the tribunal, delaying its work.
Judge Hedigan said that in light of the tribunal's findings of non co-operation, concealment and falsification in respect of Michael Lowry, the tribunal might well have withheld all of his costs or compelled him to pay part of its legal costs.
In the Gospels, Judas Iscariot weeps at his betrayal, handing back the 30 pieces of silver to the Chief Priests. "I have sinned," he told the elders, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."
"What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."
Fine Gael, as Mr Bruton has shown, may be employing a strategic Reverse Judas Kiss, but it is our responsibility to hold them to account for its choice of partners in government.