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€55k in fees for ex Lowry adviser on note to Enda

independent TD Michael Lowry has admitted that his description of a member of a State board as "not bad looking" to the Taoiseach was "unnecessary".

Mr Lowry spoke today for the first time since it emerged that he lobbied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have his former press advisor, Valerie O'Reilly, kept on the board of the National Transport Authority.

Ms O'Reilly has been sitting on the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA) - where members get €11,970 a year in fees - for almost five years. Last week, Mr Lowry passed a note in the Dail chamber to the Taoiseach seeking to have Ms O'Reilly re-appointed.

The note said: "Taoiseach, would you please consider re-appointing Valerie O'Reilly to the board of the NTA. A woman, bright, intelligent and not bad looking either! Michael Lowry."

Speaking on Tipp FM today, Mr Lowry said, "It was a light-hearted comment and obviously it was unnecessary, and in hindsight it was unnecessary."

"I haven't had any great discussion or contact from women saying they were unhappy about it, but I accept it was a light-hearted, unnecessary comment."

reference

Mr Lowry said Ms O'Reilly was a very important member of the NTA board, and it would make sense to re-appoint her.

"I consider what I gave was effectively a reference. I do that on a regular basis.

"I don't know what world some people live in but the fact is that as a politician I am approached nearly every week by somebody who is seeking a job that I would know.

"I certainly wouldn't put somebody forward for a job unless I knew they had the ability and capability to do it, and in this instance I was totally satisfied," Mr Lowry said.

He said the note to the Taoiseach was the quickest communication option for him.

"The quickest way for me to do it was [because] Taoiseach was sitting in front of me.

"On a regular basis notes are passed between members of the House and various ministers, and I took that route," Mr Lowry said.

"Cronyism can't apply to this. Her company worked with me over successive elections and she did an excellent job and ran fantastic campaigns. She was paid for that on a commercial basis," he added.

"There has been a lot of discussion and debate in recent times about the importance of involving women in institutions of the State, and making sure that women have equal opportunities to access those positions.

"Here we have a woman who is perfectly capable, and a member from NTA said she was effective," he said.

SEE PAGE 14

Herald