Saturday 25 February 2017

Links to Lowry 'could delay changes in law'

Barry Duggan, Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Fionnan Sheahan

INDEPENDENT TD Michael Lowry's links to the country's first multi-million euro casino complex could delay changes to gambling laws needed for the facility to operate.

Mr Lowry last night insisted he had no financial involvement in the country's first casino development, called the Tipperary Venue, which was granted planning permission yesterday.

The former Fine Gael minister is supporting the development of the casino in his Tipperary North constituency and lobbying the Government to change the gambling laws.

But government sources said there was no desire in the Coalition to amend the legislation to allow for the casino to be set up.

And a cabinet source said Mr Lowry's association with the project might actually put off ministers who won't want to be seen to be conceding to his demands following the Moriarty Tribunal report.

The gambling laws were highly unlikely to be changed during the lifetime of this Government, a cabinet source said.

Mr Lowry insisted his only interest was that of a public representative for a project he said would create thousands of jobs.

The Independent TD, who was out of the country yesterday, told the Irish Independent he had no finance invested in the Tipperary project nor did he stand to benefit from it proceeding.

"I mean what else could a local TD do other than to support a very innovative project," he asked.

Mr Lowry said supporting the application for the vast complex through the planning process was his "only involvement" with it.

"When Richard Quirke (the complex developer) came up with the idea, I was one of the first people that he approached. He rang me and said: 'Look, you are a man that gets things done around Tipperary and I'd like you to assist me and support me with this venture'," he said.

"I supported it as a local TD because I could see the potential to create jobs and generate wealth in the local area."

Mr Lowry is continuing to seek a change in the gambling legislation to allow the casino to operate and expects to get an idea of the Government's thinking by the end of the year.

"There is an urgent necessity to reform the legislation. It's been there since 1956 and it doesn't meet the present-day requirements," he said.

"We need proper licensing and regulatory systems. We have 250,000 unemployed nationally and there is no valid reason why the next step can't be taken where a licence can be applied for and given under strict regulation."

The Independent TD said it was hoped that work would start on the site at Two-Mile Borris, outside Thurles, Co Tipperary, in the next four months.

Mr Lowry said work could soon begin on the proposed racecourse, White House and equestrian centre.

"These are commercially viable and stand alone," he said.

Irish Independent

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