Monday 19 November 2018

Exclusive: Ex-minister passes note to Taoiseach seeking 'crony' appointment

Michael Lowry, Enda and a nice job for the 'lovely girl'

Michael Lowry TD
Michael Lowry TD
The note that Michael Lowry passed
Michael Lowry
Valerie O'Reilly

Daniel McConnell

Former Fine Gael minister and Independent TD Michael Lowry lobbied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have his female former press advisor reappointed to a State board, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Mr Lowry passed a note to Mr Kenny in the Dail chamber last Wednesday in which he asked the Taoiseach to consider re-appointing Valerie O'Reilly, who runs her own successful public relations agency, to the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA).

"Taoiseach, would you please consider re-appointing Valerie O'Reilly to the board of the NTA. A woman, bright, intelligent and not bad looking either! Michael Lowry," Mr Lowry's note said.

The incident comes just three months after Mr Kenny and Fine Gael were engulfed in another cronysism scandal involving John McNulty and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The Sunday Independent can confirm that Mr Lowry authored the note and then gave it on to Mr Kenny last Wednesday evening.

The incident is sure to raise eyebrows about Mr Kenny's relationship with Mr Lowry.

However, the note was later picked up from the Government benches in the Dail after Mr Kenny left the chamber.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Lowry said he had no comment on the matter.

However, sources close to Mr Lowry were last night very unhappy that his note had made its way to the media.

"Some pack of disloyal guys he has behind him. None of them thought to give the note to the Taoiseach or to Michael, disgraceful," a friend of Mr Lowry said last night.

The Taoiseach's spokesman said he had no comment on the matter, other than to say all board appointments are "governed by the public appointments service system".

Ms O'Reilly worked for Mr Lowry as a press advisor over the past decade, particularly during his battles with the Moriarty Tribunal.

She was also a well recognised and popular presence around Leinster House.

She was first appointed to the board of the NTA in March 2010 by the Cowen government amid charges of cronyism and her term is due to finish later this year.

The Cowen government relied on Mr Lowry's support for its survival in the Dail and her appointment was described as a "sweetener" at the time by political opponents.

However, sources have said she has been an "excellent addition" to the NTA board since her appointment.

It is known she is eager for her term to be renewed.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent last night, Ms O'Reilly said: "The ratio of women involved in public institutions is a topical issue. I have been a diligent and effective member of the NTA Board and I would be willing to continue to make a contribution to its work. I made Michael Lowry, my local TD, amongst others, aware of this."

However, it is believed Ms O'Reilly did not formally request Mr Lowry to make representations on her behalf.

Ms O'Reilly is a well known public relations consultant and has run her own successful business, Unicorn Public Relations agency, since 2003.

Ms O'Reilly, who became engaged to an international hedge fund financier before Christmas, holds a masters degree in political and public communication, an honours degree in marketing and a diploma in business.

In June 2012, she was elected president of the Clonmel Chamber. She began her career with leading Irish entertainment PR firm, Chris Roche Publicity where she handled various accounts including Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance.

Mr Lowry was investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal and is a poll-topping Tipperary North TD.

He resigned from the Fine Gael parliamentary party in 1997.

Back in 2010, at Phil Hogan's birthday party, the then leader of the Opposition, Enda Kenny, referred to Mr Lowry rejoining Fine Gael.

A number of attendees quoted Mr Kenny as saying: "Is that a membership application form I see in Deputy Lowry's top pocket?"

However sources differed as to whether or not he was joking.

Mr Hogan, who was born on July 4, 1960, marked his 50th birthday with some 150 guests in The Corner House in Bennettsbridge.

Sunday Independent

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