Call to probe Lowry complaints
Published 28/11/2012 | 18:44
An ethics watchdog has been asked to investigate complaints against Independent TD Michael Lowry for failing to declare he owns a section of land in the UK.
Almost 400 complaints from the public were lodged to the Dail's Committee on Members' Interests regarding the controversial politician.
Mr Lowry omitted 18 acres of land he part-owns in Wigan, England, from a recent declaration of members' interests, despite laws requiring TDs to register ownership of property worth more than 13,000 euro (£10,500).
Committee chairman Thomas Pringle said the group had decided to refer the complaints to the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission because it was better equipped to probe the Tipperary North TD.
"The committee is of the opinion that the commission is better placed to conduct an investigation into these allegations by virtue of the fact that the legislation provides for an inquiry officer to assist the commission in its work," Mr Pringle said. "No such preliminary investigation function, or relevant support mechanism by way of inquiry officer or otherwise, is available to the committee. For that reason, the committee is furnishing the complaints to the commission."
A total of 380 complaints were made against Mr Lowry - a former Fine Gael communications minister. The TD, who was investigated in the Moriarty tribunal, has dismissed the complaints as orchestrated and co-ordinated.
He said he himself asked the Office of the Clerk of the Dail to forward the complaints to the appropriate investigative body. "I will co-operate with the Sipo authority and I hope to establish the motivation for this planned and focused effort," Mr Lowry said in a statement.
The 2011 report from the Moriarty tribunal found Mr Lowry had interfered with the granting of the state's second mobile phone licence 17 years ago. Billionaire Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone was the successful bidder. The land now in question also has links with the tribunal and was probed in relation to alleged blackmail money that was paid to a land agent.
Mr Lowry and businessman Liam Carroll bought options on the 220-acre site near Wigan, in England's north-west, in 2001 using British company Vineacre. The TD has claimed the cost of renewing the options was high and that he and Mr Carroll decided it was not worth it. Vineacre was dissolved two years ago and all that remains is a plot of around 18 acres of the land the two men jointly own.
Mr Lowry said the plot is now landlocked and is therefore worthless - which is why he initially failed to declare it. Earlier this month, the TD was forced to amend his entry in the Dail register of members' interests to include the land.