Monday 21 August 2017

Lowry boasted of toilet grant on Budget day

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

INDEPENDENT TD Michael Lowry boasted to constituents that the Government approved funding for a school toilet -- on the same day he voted for the €6bn tax and cut Budget.

Locals and staff at Our Lady's Secondary School in Templemore, Co Tipperary, were left with the impression that Mr Lowry had used his leverage in the run-up to the Budget to help get €43,000 for the upgrade and refurbishment of the school toilet.

Parents were also annoyed when an envelope addressed from the school arrived through their doors containing a letter from Mr Lowry confirming Tanaiste Mary Coughlan had approved the toilet grant.

It was dated December 7 -- the day Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced the Budget and the Dail voted on it, with Mr Lowry casting a crucial vote in favour.

The Tipperary North TD met Ms Coughlan, who is also Minister for Education, in the days before the Budget as he weighed up which way he would vote. But he said he mentioned the school to Ms Coughlan three months in advance of the Budget.

He was given assurances by Ms Coughlan on the funding for the toilet a week before the Budget, when she was told how much her department would have to spend in 2011.

Our Lady's School principal Patricia Higgins said she thought Mr Lowry used his leverage to get the toilet money. "I would imagine so," she said.

Mr Lowry and fellow Independent Jackie Healy-Rae were criticised by the opposition as "Ballymagash politicians" for using their influence before the Budget to push their own issues.

Defended

Ms Higgins also defended sending out literature from Mr Lowry, saying the school did not show favouritism to any local TDs in Tipperary North.

Data protection laws meant Mr Lowry could not get the names and addresses of parents from the school -- so he asked the school to send out the letters for him.

"He asked if we could post out the letters for him because of the data protection laws," Ms Higgins, who said Mr Lowry paid for the postage, added.

She also said Mr Lowry had consistently lobbied for the school.

Mr Lowry described the process as a normal part of the political system. He also said he had previously asked two other Tipperary schools to send out letters for him.

"I didn't do anything extraordinary," Mr Lowry said. "This is the normal product of a political system."

Irish Independent

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