If Michael Lowry had covered his tracks a little better, he might be Taoiseach of this country today.
That's the really scary thing about this man, who continues to sit in the Dail despite the fog of scandal that has engulfed him for the past 15 years. He had all the qualities needed to reach the top -- but was finally brought down for the simple reason that he couldn't lie straight in bed.
Even Lowry's worst enemies would have to admit that he has a genius for making money. He started out on a small farm in Tipperary and ended up a millionaire businessman. As Fine Gael's chief fundraiser, he cleared the party's massive debt in the mid-90s and became one of Taoiseach John Bruton's most trusted colleagues.
Lowry once styled himself as an enemy of corruption. He promised to clean up the "cosy cartels" that dominated Ireland's semi-State companies and called for new laws that would root out cronyism in the public sector. What he didn't reveal was that at the same time, he was using every means he could to avoid paying his fair share of tax.
He was forced to quit the cabinet in 1996 when it was revealed that he had received a payment of almost £500,000 from supermarket tycoon Ben Dunne to build an extension on his house.
Since Lowry left the cabinet in disgrace, there have been four General Elections. He has topped the poll in Tipperary North every time. He has also re-invented himself as the ultimate parish pump politician, helping to prop up Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen by cutting lucrative deals in exchange for his Dail vote.
It seems that for some voters, corruption doesn't matter -- and with Lowry lobbying for a casino in Two-Mile Borris, he would be elected yet again in the morning.
Lowry has never uttered a single word of apology. The chances of him resigning are practically nil, since in his eyes this would effectively be an admission of guilt.
Unfortunately for Martyred Michael, the facts speak for themselves -- and they show that when his chances of becoming Taoiseach went south, we really dodged a bullet.
-- ANDREW LYNCH