John Drennan: Kenny lashed over 'affection' for pal Lowry
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is under fire from his own backbenchers over continued close links with disgraced TD Michael Lowry.
At a series of early morning meetings with Fine Gael TDs and senators, the Taoiseach was told bluntly that Mr Lowry seemed to continue to get a lot of "affection" from the party and this was "harming Fine Gael's interests."
The perception that Mr Lowry was still close to Fine Gael ministers was "saving his political career", the Taoiseach was told.
But in an interview published yesterday in the Irish Times Mr Lowry was defiant and unrepentant.
He said that despite the media campaign against him the people of Tipperary North continue to return him to the Dail and this had given him great moral support.
He rejected the idea that his career had damaged the reputation of Irish politicians and politics.
He believed that with Denis O'Brien's new dominance of Independent Newspapers he would be getting a better press "definitely."
He said Mr Justice Michael Moriarty was wrong in his findings. He said the Moriarty tribunal report will "not stand a judicial test".
The deeply embarrassing critique of Mr Kenny's and his ministers' close contacts with Mr Lowry occurred last week during a series of early morning meetings with the party TDs and senators.
Mr Kenny was rounded on for his failure to distance himself from his former close political ally Mr Lowry and the ongoing chaotic state of the party's campaign.
He was also warned by the TDs and senators that the "publicity'' over the ongoing warm relationship between Mr Lowry, and his former close FG allies had actually enhanced Mr Lowry's political status in the wake of the Moriarty tribunal.
One FG source told the Sunday Independent that the sharpest confrontation occurred when the Tipperary TD Noel Coonan "criticised the close attention Michael Lowry has been receiving from the Government'' and claimed "Lowry has been dominating the attention of ministers".
Mr Kenny was told the fact that Mr Lowry "seems to continue to get a lot of affection from this party'' is harming FG interests, and that while Mr Lowry had been "haemorrhaging support in the immediate aftermath of the election result'' and the end of his alliance with Brian Cowen, the perception that the disgraced former FG minister was still close to the hierarchy of FG was "saving his career''.
Mr Coonan is also believed to have suggested that FG ministers tell voters that "they have a FG TD in Tipperary and don't need Lowry''.
Another FG member asked, when it came to the campaign, "Will ye be splitting the constituency between Lowry and the FG TD?"
Other FG TDs noted that "Coonan gave it to him hot and heavy, we won't be having breakfast with Enda for a long time again''.
However, the Tipperary TD himself declined to offer any comment beyond noting: "I stand over what I said at the meeting.''
The Taoiseach was also sent away with a flea in his ear by Waterford TD John Deasy, who told him that "ministers contradicting themselves represented the biggest threat to the 'Yes' vote.''
Mr Deasy also warned the Taoiseach that the campaign would be "decided on television and not on the ground''. He criticised the chaotic state of FG's referendum battle plan that had resulted in the party having "a campaign with 15,000 committees and no leaflets''.
One delighted source noted: "Deasy made it clear he was not buying in to any happy-clappy stuff or horse-shit about how leaflets will win the referendum.''