Lowry: 'I'll raise a glass of brandy to the proud people of Tipperary'
Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30
Last night Michael Lowry was raising a toast - to himself and the people of Tipperary.
By the time all the votes are counted, a small brandy will be in his hand and he will bask in what he described as his "sweetest ever" election victory.
"I am going to revel in the moment," he said.
In the count centre in Thurles, the number ones beside his name poured forth from the boxes in a torrent. The country's most controversial politician had once again come out as the Premier County's number-one choice.
He might be forgiven for giving a two-fingered salute to his detractors - his constituents certainly did.
"The message is that they are consistently behind Lowry," he said, "and it's Up Tipp!"
By his own admission he will be "celebrating for the weekend".
"I will start with a brandy. That will settle my tummy and then I will have a couple of pints of Heineken."
While the party leaders battled it out on televised debates and did laps of the media circuit, Lowry kept his head down.
"I never look beyond Tipperary. It's my home. It's my place of origin. [They] are my people. I know them and they know me. They respect me for what I am. They are not judgemental," he said.
"People look at human traits and human qualities. You can be the best politician in the world, but if they don't see you as being a genuine and true person then they won't vote for you," he says.
To top the poll once is impressive, but Lowry has now done it five times.
To say it has left political commentators staggered is grossly understating the case. But you can't bottle or catalogue his unique political skills.
Lowry said that his followers won't be swayed by the people in Dublin. And in fact the more the media tries to do it, the more the local electorate is inclined to fight back.
"People in urban centres like Dublin claim they can't understand this. And it annoys them. It is an insult to Tipperary people when they are being lectured from Dublin," he said.
"But you see what they forget is we are a big county and we all know each other. There is a sense of identity, a sense of community, and a sense of belonging, and they can make their own decisions based on the personality and the character that they know."
So, what characteristics does he have that people respond well to?
"I believe in playing to my own strengths and letting the opposition do their own thing."
Of 20 years of tribunals, court cases and constant media criticism, he said: "I never considered opting out. Not for a moment. That would have been defeatism."
His strength, he said, comes from local support: "Someone coming up to me and putting their hand on my shoulder and saying 'we are with you'. It's a handshake. It's an older person giving me a warm smile.
"It's so nice to hear young people say I am voting for you because granny and granddad think you are the best ever."
Is there an element of the Tipperary electorate putting two fingers up to the Dublin media to say "you're not going to tell us what to do"?
"There's a bit of that in it," he said. "People can write what they like, people in high positions can make very flowery statements to grab headlines, but when people read the full content they make their own judgements and know how unfair the presentation of an argument is, and that definitely annoys and irritates a lot of people.
"No one knows myself better than myself. And I know I don't deserve those headlines. The truth rests with me."
So much has been written about him, he said. "But I don't have time for hurt. I'm resilient, I'm made of tough stuff."