Friday 6 December 2019

Burton caves on Lowry, Kenny still silent

Taoiseach urged to shut door on TD

Joan Burton finally ruled out working with Michael Lowry. Photo: Arthur Carron
Joan Burton finally ruled out working with Michael Lowry. Photo: Arthur Carron

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is still refusing to rule out working with Independent TD Michael Lowry after the election even after the Tánaiste Joan Burton finally caved on the issue.

For two days Ms Burton declined to address the direct question of whether Ms Lowry would be an acceptable coalition partner, instead giving a broad answer that she did not want to work with any independents.

However, a spokesman last night said: "The Tánaiste does not believe it appropriate that the individual in question would form part of a future government.

"She has made very clear her concerns about the type of secretive deals with Independents that were a hallmark of Fianna Fáil governments."

Sources close to Ms Burton denied that she had been bounced into a stronger statement on the issue by Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, saying that her view has always "chimed" with those of her party colleagues.

Attention is now once again turning back on Mr Kenny who is under growing pressure from backbench TDs and some ministers to rule out Mr Lowry in the same way he has said he would not do a deal with Fianna Fáil or Sinn Féin.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has heaped pressure on the Fine Gael leader to cut Mr Lowry loose, saying the ex- Communications Minister "has an issue with the law".

Last night, Mr Kenny's spokesman said the Government is "not contemplating engaging with any independents" - but yet again he did not rule out the prospect of post election talks with Mr Lowry.

The apparent new stance that Fine Gael is now "not contemplating" working with Mr Lowry was echoed in statements to the Irish Independent by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

But in a move that will further add to the confusion among voters, the party's deputy leader James Reilly said: "As regards the formation of the next government, we do not want a situation where we hand back power to those who wrecked the country in the past or those who would wreck it in the future.

"If people want clarity about who Fine Gael wants to do business with, the answer is Labour," he added.

Several Fine Gael sources yesterday privately expressed their dissatisfaction with the Taoiseach's approach.

"He needs to come and say: Absolutely no way when it comes to Lowry," said one minister.

And yesterday, Tipperary's two sitting Fine Gael TDs also expressed their opposition to towards any such deal.

Junior minister Tom Hayes said: "It is not going to be an issue, we can't and won't be giving in to independents. That includes the whole lot."

His colleague Noel Coonan said he is satisfied there is "no proposal" to talk to Mr Lowry, who he described as a "master tactician".

"Money couldn't buy the type of publicity he has got. It is the talk of the constituency, the rest of us haven't got a mention."

No responses were given by Simon Coveney while a spokesman for Michael Noonan directed this newspaper to the Fine Gael Press Office.

Fine Gael minister Charlie Flanagan and Labour's Jan O'Sullivan did move to distance themselves from Mr Lowry.

"We should not negotiate with any independents," Mr Flanagan said.

And a spokesman for Ms O'Sullivan: "The Minister believes it would not be appropriate for that government to be dependent on Deputy Lowry's vote to give the country the leadership and stability it needs."

Mr Lowry fuelled the debate yesterday by taking to his local radio station, Tipp FM, to attack Alan Kelly for "jumping on the bandwagon".

He was responding to comments Mr Kelly made to the Irish Independent yesterday in which he "categorically" ruled out Labour working with his constituency rival.

Mr Lowry said the minister is suffering from "a bit of delusion" and his statement "smacks of his customary arrogance".

Mr Kelly replied: "Being honest with you I don't pay much attention to Mr Lowry as I barely ever see him in the constituency and I rarely ever see him in the Dáil as well so I don't pay any attention to him."

Irish Independent

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