It's the personal touch that earns such a loyal following
Published 26/03/2011 | 05:00
USUALLY it is the priest who is sent for when somebody is on their deathbed. But in Tipperary, it was Michael Lowry who was called by a priest who wanted to have a chat because he hadn't much time left.
It is hard for people outside of north Tipperary to understand the devotion to Mr Lowry. His faithful don't care about the Moriarty report -- and they have shrugged off insults that they are "red necks" for voting for a man whose actions were slammed as "disgraceful" and "insidious".
But there is no great secret to Mr Lowry's success in topping the poll in four consecutive elections despite serious question marks over his friendships and dealings with businessmen Denis O'Brien and Ben Dunne when he was a Fine Gael minister.
North Tipperary people like Michael Lowry. The TD knows that every ballot box from Lorrha to Cappawhite counts. He takes nothing for granted and he helps even Fianna Fail families to get medical cards or college grants for their children when they have nowhere else to turn. The Lowrys don't apologise for working the political system that is there.
"What right does someone have to say I'm a crook or he's a crook when they don't know me?" asked Micheal Lowry, the 34-year-old son of Mr Lowry.
"I've a brother and a sister, a mother, aunts and uncles, other relations and friends. They all say 'why should we have to sit here and read that we're idiots and red necks because we vote for you?' It gets frustrating but you bite your lip and move on," he said.
The conversation is interrupted as Cllr Micheal Lowry -- who is part of 'Team Lowry' -- needs to answer the door to a constituent.
When asked what the 10-minute visit was about, Mr Lowry replies: "You don't talk about what a fella wants. You just get the job done for them, rule number one."
Citizens across the country are stumped by Mr Lowry's popularity in spite of hugely damaging revelations about him in the Moriarty report. But "hard work" is what 'Team Lowry' believes has helped the TD survive against all the odds.
A strategy of putting up eight candidates in the local elections under the Independent 'Lowry' banner has paid dividends. Seven of the candidates got elected with the eighth only missing out by a handful of votes.
'Team Lowry' spends its time attending weddings, funerals, anniversary Masses, sports days, cake sales and coffee mornings. It is at these venues that the team meets the people -- and the people tell the team what they need.
Micheal and 'the father' usually split up as they cover more ground.
Mr Lowry's typical day starts early in the morning. The 57-year-old is on the phone almost from the moment he wakes. And he doesn't get to bed until 2am most nights after attending a function in the constituency -- or returning from Dublin.
For the past 14 years he has had three full-time jobs: overseeing the running of his electric appliances business, which is managed on a day-to-day basis by his brother; answering questions of the Moriarty Tribunal and his role as a local TD.
He spends most of his week in Tipperary and generally only attends the Dail for important votes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He is a social animal -- and has the personality of a rural Irish politician.
"If you go for a drink with Michael Lowry, you're really going to be drinking on your own for the night," said one of his close friends. "He spends the night mingling."
First off, he usually orders a brandy with no ice -- and then a bottle of Heineken which he takes in a pint glass with ice. That's about the extent of it for the night, which he spends taking down notes and listening for feedback.
The Lowrys believe many people who live in Dublin have no access to their TDs and that is why they cannot understand his popularity.
Mr Lowry has had connections in the GAA and community clubs and organisations since he was a child.
He helps these groups to apply for grants and access funds. This increases his popularity locally.
"I am totally committed to politics," Mr Lowry explains.
"After 6pm is when most of my work is done. The secret to my support is to be ever present, available to people and visible in the community."
He has four current directorships listed with the Companies Registration Office. These include two roles with Garuda Ltd, which manufactures electric domestic appliances; Abbeygreen Consulting Ltd which involves construction work and special trades; and Gdlc Business Consultants Ltd -- a business and management consultancy registered on Northumberland Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.