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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Lowry's 'alarming' remarks about land agent's family led to leak

Warning to Senator Diarmuid Wilson prompted release of tapes

Michael Lowry
Michael Lowry

ELAINE BYRNE Exclusive

The Omagh-based land agent whose telephone conversation with disgraced former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry was published in the Sunday Independent last weekend has said he was spurred into going public because of remarks he said Mr Lowry made about him and his family to another Oireachtas member.

Kevin Phelan said that the remarks, which he described as "disturbing", were made outside Leinster House by Mr Lowry to Senator Diarmuid Wilson (FF) at the end of last year. And yesterday Mr Wilson confirmed that the remarks were made and that they had "alarmed" him. However, he declined to give further details of the conversation.

Mr Lowry did not respond to a number of queries put to him over the past few days by the Sunday Independent.

Mr Phelan said he is now considering co-operating with the Criminal Assets Bureau in any investigation they may be undertaking arising out of the Moriarty tribunal report. He said he would consider helping if an inquiry was of short duration.

Asked yesterday why he had gone public with the controversial tape-recorded conversation, Mr Phelan said: "The reason why I gave the tape to the Sunday Independent is that Michael Lowry had a very robust conversation with Senator Diarmuid Wilson on the street outside the Dail recently. Deputy Lowry said something about my family which was deeply hurtful. I'm not going to be intimidated by people and I'm just not going to tolerate that. This was my way of protecting myself and my family."

Mr Phelan revealed that the recording he made public is one of a number in his possession which, he said, are now stored in a safe place.

"At the end of the day, I'm not holding recordings in any way to embarrass anybody or to be difficult. The recordings are private to me, in terms of protecting my position and effectively they are not there to be just published to cause trouble."

Referring to the £250,000 which Mr Lowry confirmed his company, Garuda, had authorised the Finnish refrigeration company, Norpe OY, to pay to Mr Phelan, he said he had never heard of Norpe or dealt with Garuda.

"It could have come from anywhere as far as I'm concerned. It came from that company Norpe. Who Norpe are, I've no idea," he said.

Mr Phelan, who had been due to give evidence to the tribunal but pulled out at the last minute, said he was under tremendous pressure throughout Mr Moriarty's deliberations.

"The pressure from the sittings at the tribunal was immense. I was continually getting calls (from witnesses). I was getting harassed from various individuals who were giving evidence – can you supply this, can you remember that, can you tell us what happened here – and it was just continuous calls. It was just endless."

Mr Phelan said he accepts that people may legitimately criticise him for raising apparently unresolved issues which, if he had given evidence, might have been clarified. But, he said, the whole experience has been traumatic.

"To be honest with you, it has been an absolute nightmare. I've had to relocate my base to London, I've had to re-invent my whole business. A lot of people, once they hear you are involved in a tribunal or your name is mentioned in a tribunal, they don't want to do business with you. In terms of family life, it has obviously had a significant impact on people in the family who have to read these articles day in, day out, when they are not involved, they have nothing to do with it and they don't know what it's about but they still have to endure media articles which mention my name."

Sunday Independent

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