Yesterday was the legal triangle after 21 years at the court of Judge Martin Nolan. Standing before him was the man that many said years ago would be the next Fine Gael Taoiseach; he was the Bruton’s golden boy of the nineties but then greed and dark clouds came raining down. Now, yesterday in the court the Jury found Deputy Michael Lowry, of Holy Cross, Tipperary guilty on two counts of tax evasion. When you read the actual script do not be fooled, this was no mistake, this was contrived, calculated and planned and Lowry was fined £25,000 and walked out of the court. I wish him well but I would think another family were watching this case very closely – the Begley family, also known as the Garlic case. It was the same Judge Nolan who presided over this case. Mr Begley did not block the case for 21 years; he did not go to the High Court and try every loop hole in the law book to obstruct natural due process. Like Lowry he had no previous convictions and as Judge Nolan described Lowry, as a man of honour, and a man who put his hand into his own pocket and paid Revenue some years ago £1.2 million, Nolan went on to say how gracious he was and it would be inappropriate for me and society to give him a custodial sentence.
Mr Begley was an honourable man too; he employed 142 people; he had an arrangement with Revenue and was paying them back, just like the Indian doctor last week, who was sent to prison also, but Judge Nolan showed no mercy, he gave Mr Begley 6 years in prison; it shocked the entire country including Alan Shatter and to this day it is still talked about in pubs the length and breadth of this country. Yes, many years ago I wrote on the topic Selective Justice and i don’t see any changes since then in our courts. The pattern of sentencing at the moment is not just worrying it is to put it mildly alarming. If you come from the inner city of Dublin, parts of Galway, Limerick, Cork and your address is a major factor for any youngster in relation to getting a custodial sentence or a suspended one. Now people today may want me to give you some back up on this and I will. Let’s not forget young Murphy who was punched to the ground and kicked to death outside Annabel’s nightclub, Burlington hotel, Dublin 4, some years ago. The families including Fr Troy and other eminent barristers circled the wagons and those 4 thugs got sentences ranging from 6 months to 6 years. This is what young Murphy’s life is worth and I am sure his family feel the pain to this day. We had the murder of the young Nolan boy from Santry, out celebrating his leaving cert some years ago, he got lost, walked down Waterloo Road, Dublin 4, a minor row broke out and a knife was produced by a 16 year old local youth and the Nolan boy lay dead. I think the sentence was 8 years; he is out of prison now. Yes, Selective Justice, rings bells. If you have the right address and Daddy with the right contacts, it is amazing how the court system will work in your favour. I could go on all day with other examples but I am sure there is room for thought on the above mentioned.
Before I conclude this morning, I want to make a comment about the new incoming Garda Commissioner, Mr Drew Harris, and I want to wish him well when he takes up his new post in September. Let’s have a look at his career so far:- He joined the RUC in 1983; the days during the Conflict. Of course some will say “RUC by day, UVF/UDA by night”. The Finucane family still await Justice and an unreserved apology for the murder of Pat Finucane, in his own home. As I speak this case is in the Supreme Court in the UK today. Let us not forget there were murders against innocent protestant people also. The father of Mr Harris was blown up by the IRA and his mother wounded, over 30 years ago so some will say he is bringing some heavy baggage across the border with him but I say it will be interesting how he fits into his new role and to see how he cleans up the corruption and bullying in our police force here. Harris gave evidence concerning M15 connections at the Smithwick tribunal. Harris is going to have enemies without an Garda Siochana because they will feel he is an outsider so time will tell and as Ray Burke once said, seven days is a long time in politics. Ironically, Burke was the first ever Minister for Justice to climb into a prison van in handcuffs so 7 days is a long time in politics.
In the last 3 years we have seen two Garda Commissioners resign and Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice and the secretary of the Department of Justice so nobody would envy the task that lies ahead for Drew Harris and I hope Sinn Fein wish him well in his new role and Mary-Lou McDonald invites him for dinner in the Dail. This could be a great beginning for Transparency and a new dawn for Irish policing.