Tuesday 17 July 2018

Controversial TD Michael Lowry endures 22 years of 'absolute turmoil'

Independent TD Michael Lowry. Photo: Collins Courts
Independent TD Michael Lowry. Photo: Collins Courts
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

After his trial Michael Lowry said his family, staff and the people of Tipperary have been loyal in their support for him "during 22 years of absolute turmoil".

Not everyone may agree with his complaints on the steps of the court that he was "pilloried" during that time.

But it's certainly the case that the former Fine Gael minister has had one of the most controversial careers in politics over the last two decades.

Lowry (64) was educated in Thurles CBS and was involved in the GAA in Tipperary from his youth. He became the youngest ever county board chairman and helped develop pop festival Féile, which contributed to clearing building debts at Semple Stadium.

He was first elected as a councillor in 1979 and won a Dáil seat in 1987.

Lowry was parliamentary party chairman in the early 1990s and was appointed minister for transport energy and communications in the rainbow government.

In 1996, the Irish Independent revealed that refurbishment work at Lowry's home at Holycross, Co Tipperary, which cost almost IR£400,000, was paid for by Dunnes Stores.

His refrigeration company had a contract to supply and maintain refrigeration units to the retail giant. The revelations led to Lowry's resignation from cabinet and later from Fine Gael after he was told he couldn't stand for the party in the 1997 election.

His financial affairs were investigated at the Moriarty Tribunal, which examined the awarding in 1995 of the State's second mobile phone licence to businessman Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone.

The tribunal found that Lowry assisted Mr O'Brien, who is INM's largest shareholder, in his bid to secure the licence. Lowry's influence was described in the report as "insidious". Both men have rejected the tribunal's findings.

The controversies have not stopped Lowry from topping the polls in several elections as an Independent candidate.

He was among Independent TDs who announced they had deals with the Fianna Fáil-Green Party government elected in 2007.

Lowry has claimed he has an "understanding" with the current Fine Gael-led administration, though this has been denied by the Government. A spokesperson for the Taoiseach told the Irish Independent last night that Lowry gets "the same treatment as any independent member of the Dáil".

Irish Independent

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