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FitzGerald lashes Lowry over tax evasion

Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald has lashed out at the political culture which allows former tax evaders to be elected to public office.

Speaking at the opening of the 30th MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, Mr FitzGerald, the former Fine Gael leader who was twice Taoiseach in the 1980s, also said that those in public life needed to be more accountable.

Referring to independent TD Michael Lowry, a former member of Fine Gael, found by the McCracken Tribunal to have evaded tax when he received a payment from businessman Ben Dunne for an extension on his home in the 1990s, he said: "Rural tolerance of, or even support for, tax evasion extends well beyond those who have actually engaged personally in this practice.

"We can see (this) from the results of the last General Election in north Tipperary, where a candidate who had been shown to have evaded taxes and who was a government minister topped the poll with almost 30pc of the votes," he added.

"This local reaction has been seen generally -- rightly, I think -- as reflecting widespread antipathy to what is seen as a 'Dublin Government'."

He added that business interests propping up election campaigns "create a political dependency relationship".

Martin McGuinness, the North's Deputy First Minister, gave the annual John Hume lecture at this year's school, which is themed "Reforming the Republic -- issues of politics, economics and accountability."

Mr McGuinness extended his sympathy to the families and the people of the Inishowen peninsula after the tragic deaths of eight people in a car accident last week.


He also paid tribute to Mr Hume, who he saw in Derry's Guildhall recently celebrating the award of the City of Culture to his hometown.

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Mr McGuinness warned that, despite the peace process, there were still pockets of society who could not grasp the political realities of Ireland in 2010.

"They can be found in the unrepresentative militarist factions who continue to carry out armed actions and the criminal elements who operate under the cover of bogus patriots," he said.

He also said that nowhere was the recession more obvious than in Co Donegal.

"Businesses of all sizes are closing. Families are struggling with massive mortgage debt," Mr McGuinness said, adding: "And alongside that, we have the spectacle of the bankers walking away with super huge golden handshakes."

Other speakers at the week-long conference include An Bord Snip Nua economist Colm McCarthy and ministers Micheal Martin (Foreign Affairs), Noel Dempsey (Transport) and Mary Couglan (Education and Skills).

Opposition leaders Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore will also give addresses.

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