Wednesday 13 December 2017

Witch-hunt for Michael Lowry's 'lovely girl' letter leaker

Taoiseach denies official trawl of footage for 'Labour minister'

Independent TD Michael Lowry and, inset, Valerie O'Reilly
Independent TD Michael Lowry and, inset, Valerie O'Reilly

DANIEL McCONNELL and PHILIP RYAN

The leak of Independent TD Michael Lowry's controversial "not bad looking either" letter is set to become the subject of an official inquiry, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Mr Lowry complained to Leinster House authorities that a private note he sent to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, recommending his former press adviser for re-appointment to a State board, was leaked to this newspaper.

His complaint was made to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privilege which will meet this week to consider the matter.

The committee has the power to launch an investigation or decide there are no grounds for further inquiry.

Since the Sunday Independent first revealed details of the note, Mr Lowry has insisted it was leaked by a Labour TD seeking to tarnish his reputation.

The Sunday Independent has also been given to understand that one of the Taoiseach's top officials examined Dail video footage to determine who picked up the controversial note.

Mr Kenny's spokesman this weekend officially denied a trawl of video footage had taken place, but senior Government sources claimed a Labour minister had been identified as a possible suspect. Asked about this yesterday, an official Government source said: "Not true."

Mr Lowry last week secured permission to bring a High Court challenge aimed at preventing his trial before Dublin Circuit Court on alleged tax offences.

His lawyers argued that the trial should be halted because media reports made the TD look "sexist and derogatory towards women".

The note, given to the Taoiseach via an usher, asked Mr Kenny to consider reappointing Mr Lowry's former PR adviser Valerie O'Reilly to the board of the National Transport Authority.

The story was published in the Sunday Independent and the note recommended Ms O'Reilly on grounds she was bright and intelligent "and not bad looking either".

In court last week, Mr Lowry's counsel said the manner in which the note made its way into the public domain, in advance of Mr Lowry's trial, is prejudicial and amounts to "wrongful intermeddling in the criminal process".

It was prejudicial given that half the members of the Circuit Court jury, should the trial proceed, was likely to be made up of women.

The circumstances of how "parties in Dail Eireann" provided the newspaper with the note is the subject of a complaint by Mr Lowry to the Dail's Committee on Procedures and Privileges, counsel outlined.

The leaking of the note was significant as it had been involved in a "concerted campaign" against Mr Lowry, he added.

Once Mr Lowry suggested a member of Labour passed the note to the Sunday Independent, one of Mr Kenny's officials took it upon himself to examine the footage, according to sources.

"Yeah, of course they checked who picked up the note. It wasn't just the media who sought to identify where the note may have made its way from the Government benches to the Sunday Indo," a senior source said.

Senior Fine Gael sources have also said many at the top of the party shared Mr Lowry's disappointment and anger that the note was not passed back to him or to Mr Kenny.

"Yeah, that pissed some of them off. Kenny is a big man on loyalty and felt the note getting out was bad form," a senior source said.

"It is the natural political course of action to do, checking the tapes," the source added.

Sunday Independent

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