Saturday 24 March 2018

Lowry given 'access to raise issues' in return for his vote

Michael Lowry TD. Picture: Tom Burke
Michael Lowry TD. Picture: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Independent TD Michael Lowry has special access to ministers to raise constituency issues due to his support for the Government, Leo Varadkar has admitted.

There was widespread surprise in Leinster House when it emerged that Mr Varadkar sought the controversial TD's support in order to ensure he was elected as Taoiseach this week.

And it has now been confirmed the trade-off is "access to ministers and Government departments to raise constituency issues".

At the same time, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said there was "no agreement, written or verbal with Deputy Lowry".

Earlier this week, Mr Lowry said the Taoiseach "clearly sought, and got, my support" during two phone calls.

He said that during the calls he stressed the need for investment in infrastructure, particularly at South Tipperary General Hospital. Mr Lowry said: "From his response to me, I am happy that he understands my position and the problems facing the constituency."

Mr Lowry was forced out of ministerial office and Fine Gael in 1996.

The Moriarty Tribunal found it was "beyond doubt" that Mr Lowry imparted substantive information to businessman Denis O'Brien which was "of significant value and assistance to him" in securing the country's second mobile phone licence in 1995. Both Mr Lowry and Mr O'Brien have always rejected the findings.

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Speaking in the Dáil, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin referred to Mr Lowry's remarks in the 'Tipperary Star' where he said he would have access to the Taoiseach's office and other ministers. Mr Howlin said he hoped Mr Varadkar would "put such contact to an end".

Mr Lowry later accused Mr Howlin of being "nasty and offensive" and claimed the remarks were prompted by constituency rival Alan Kelly.

Mr Varadkar's spokesman said: "There is no agreement, written or verbal with Deputy Lowry. But as a TD who supports the Government on almost all votes, he has access to ministers and Government departments to raise constituency issues and matters already contained in the Programme for a Partnership Government."

Speaking on Tipp FM yesterday, Mr Lowry again hit out at Mr Howlin's remarks, arguing they were "entirely inappropriate".

"It was an effort made to put a wedge between myself and Varadkar because I had supported him," he said.

"I enjoy the support of the people who put me in Dáil Éireann and I'm not going to be dissuaded by Brendan Howlin."

Irish Independent

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