Michael McDowell has just learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to mix it with the judges or with small men.
Earlier this year he got away with his “knee-high” jibe at Richard Bruton which was deliberately double-edged. Though purporting to be a dig at the Fine Gael man’s lack of political achievement, it also hit home at the target’s very small physical stature. It was typical of the bully in McDowell, essentially a political boot-boy who enjoys street-fighting.
On RTE’s Drivetime on Friday, retired High Court Judge Feargus Flood, another man of diminutive physical stature, was interviewed by Mary Wilson. He expressed his very high regard for Mr McDowell's brilliance in the most glowing terms. However, he then added that the one fault Mr McDowell had in life was that he "speaks first and thinks second".
Although Friday was only one away from the shortest day of the year, the early evening skies around Dublin 6 were lit up by the orange glow from the incandescent rage of the Minister on hearing the broadcast.
For this was no dig from a political opponent which could be discounted as the normal cut and thrust of party politics. This was a considered opinion from a man who once sat on the second highest court in the land, presided over the tribunal which bears his name and has probably never uttered a nakedly political comment in public in his life.
Allied to this is Justice Flood’s professional and personal acquaintance with Mr McDowell in both the Law Library and the courts, which adds significant weight to the credibility of the comment.
This is a damning intellectual indictment of a serving Government minister, particularly one in a the very sensitive Ministry of Justice. It won’t do much either for Michael’s credibility as leader of a political party.
McDowell has been long overdue his come-uppence, though I’m sure he wasn’t expecting it from this particular knee-high quarter.
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