Friday 24 March 2017

Kenny 'grateful for Lowry support but no special deal'

Independent TD Michael Lowry. Pic: Courts Collins
Independent TD Michael Lowry. Pic: Courts Collins
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is "grateful" for Independent TD Michael Lowry's support for his minority Government.

But Mr Kenny insisted that Mr Lowry has "neither a deal nor an understanding" which delivers benefits to his Tipperary constituency in return for his vote.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that Mr Lowry, who was forced to quit Fine Gael and the Government back in 1996, had repeatedly supported the Government.

Mr Martin said the Independent TD said he had not got "a deal" in return for support - but that he did have "an understanding" which would deliver benefits for Tipperary.

"Is he fibbing about that or what?" Mr Martin asked the Taoiseach, reminding him of a pledge to publish any arrangements made in return for support.

Mr Martin cited reports of official sanction for a hotel-style convalescent facility in Clonmel being sanctioned after representations by Mr Lowry.

The Taoiseach said that these reports may have been exaggerated.

"I know that the Minister for Health … I'm not sure whether he met with Deputy Lowry and a number of doctors. I think he did that out of normal courtesy for any deputy," Mr Kenny replied.

"These days, if you pass somebody on the corridor you've had a meeting.

"I appreciate the fact that he has supported the Government in here in terms of his record. There are no understandings…. I don't have any information to the contrary."

Read more: Taoiseach says no 'benefits' were given to Independent TD in return for Government support

Mr Lowry, who was a Fine Gael TD in Tipperary since 1987, was heavily criticised by the Moriarty Tribunal in March 2011 and his support for various coalition governments in recent years has been very controversial. The Moriarty Tribunal ruling, which Mr Lowry does not accept, found that he gave information to businessman Denis O'Brien which helped the latter's successful bid for Ireland's second mobile phone licence in 1995.

Mr Lowry had been Communications Minister in the Rainbow Coalition led by former Taoiseach, John Bruton, at the time. But he was obliged to resign in 1996 amid another controversy about business dealings with Dunnes Stores.

He has been a poll-topper in Tipperary for many years and his vote for the current coalition is important, given the tightness of Dáil numbers for the current minority Coalition.

Mr Kenny's Government has been careful to avoid being seen as totally dependant on Mr Lowry's vote. There was speculation that if junior education minister John Halligan, from neighbouring Waterford withdrew from Government that they would have to recruit another Independent TD to ensure the Coalition was not totally reliant on Mr Lowry.

The junior minister, who is part of the six-strong Independent Alliance, nominally led by Transport Minister Shane Ross, has threatened to withdraw from Government over the failure to enhance coronary care facilities at Waterford University Hospital.

But the Fianna Fáil leader said Mr Halligan had reasons for discontent on the hospital, given an earlier review of the issue.

Irish Independent

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