Coalition tension over Lowry tapes
MINISTER of State Alan Kelly, a Labour TD, has called on Michael Lowry to "once and for all give a full account" of his version of events on the Sunday Independent/Kevin Phelan tapes in a first indication that tensions exist within the Coalition in relation to the controversy.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Kelly said he believed it was in the "best interests of local politics, national politics and indeed the reputation of Tipperary" that Mr Lowry answer the "obvious questions" that were being asked by reputable journalists.
Last night, however, Mr Lowry told the Sunday Independent: "My instinctive reaction is that this has absolutely nothing to do with the national interests."
The controversial TD added: "Alan Kelly has always been peeved at my success in looking after the interests of Tipperary."
Willie kealy, Page 14
Mr Lowry and Mr Kelly are rival TDs in Tipperary North. But as a Labour minister, Mr Kelly's statement also indicates tensions exist within the Coalition in relation to the content of the tapes.
Mr Lowry, a former Fine Gael minister, remains on close terms with several Fine Gael members of the Cabinet.
After the publication of a taped recording of a conversation between Mr Lowry and Northern Ireland businessman Kevin Phelan, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin asked the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, to "facilitate a re-examination of the issues" by the Moriarty tribunal.
Mr Martin referred to the transcript of a conversation as "quite dramatic and startling", and said that what concerned him was "whether the tribunal was continually undermined in its efforts to get to the full truth of the issues it was investigating".
However, Mr Kenny said he had "no intention of re-opening the Moriarty tribunal" and added that if anybody had further information they should bring it to the "appropriate authorities" so it can be dealt with.
Mr Martin responded: "It is obvious that the Taoiseach does not want to re-open this can of worms."
Yesterday, Mr Kelly said: "It is time for Deputy Michael Lowry to answer the questions surrounding this controversy directly. We are all sick and tired of having personal financial matters hanging over politics in this country. It will not just disappear and go away as Deputy Lowry would like, nor should it.
"Too many obvious questions remain. These have been documented in great detail by respected journalists such as Conor Ryan, Elaine Byrne and Colm Keena. Very reasonable and legitimate questions have been put to Deputy Lowry and have gone unanswered to date. Deputy Lowry needs to explain in detail how what he said on the tape can be reconciled with what he told the tribunal. Why can't this matter be cleared up?
"It is quite amazing that Deputy Lowry seems to think he can swan around and ignore these questions for ever. It makes a mockery of what being a public representative is all about. He is never shy about trying to claim credit for local projects but is silent as the grave when it comes to his own business dealings. That type of politics should be long gone.
"He needs to now answer the questions these journalists and their papers are putting to him. Passing this off as the media attacking him again won't wash, as concerns about the matter are not confined to the media. The media have every right in this instance to ask these questions.
"It has been a constant battle to maintain the reputation of Co Tipperary since the findings of the Moriarty tribunal were published. In recent weeks this has even got harder. The failure of Deputy Lowry to answer legitimate questions is damaging for the wider body politic in Tipperary. It is certainly not helping the business and political reputation of Tipperary.
"It is surprising that after 14 years of tribunals we still see more information coming into the public domain about Michael Lowry's financial affairs. It just can't continue on like this.
"We are all aware that the reputation of politicians and politics is not in a good place at the moment. Deputy Lowry shying away from these questions is only making a very bad situation worse. I can assure him that it's not helping the people of Tipperary. It won't go away, so for everyone's sake, deal with it now."
Last night, Mr Lowry said: "Every month for 17 years I answered questions to the Moriarty tribunal. If anybody had information to bring to the tribunal which contradicted my version of events they should have done so during that time.
"The tribunal has concluded its work and the report was sent to the appropriate authorities. I will not be responding to any further queries."
Asked if Mr Kelly's statement indicated unease within the Coalition at the tape revelations, Mr Lowry said: "In modern politics it may be more instructive to examine the behind-the-scenes man-oeuvrings of Alan Kelly to fulfil his blind ambitions."
Asked to address what Mr Kelly said were the inconsistencies in his evidence to the tribunal and the content of the tapes, Mr Lowry said: "As far as I am concerned, the tribunal is over and I am finished answering questions."