Lowry poses new headache for Fine Gael as he appears on election trail
Independent TD Michael Lowry has said "friendships supersede politics" after he was pictured on the Fine Gael European election trail.
The controversial TD's cameo in the campaign poses the latest headache for Fine Gael involving Mr Lowry, who last night tipped one of its candidates to take a European Parliament seat.
Mr Lowry often votes with the Fine Gael-led minority Government and has suggested that representations he has made has delivered investment in Tipperary.
Leo Varadkar last year confirmed he contacted Mr Lowry to seek his support for the Dáil vote where he was elected Taoiseach.
But he insisted there is no formal arrangement in place with Mr Lowry in return for his support.
Now, Mr Lowry - who was Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications from 1994 to 1996 - has been photographed alongside Fine Gael Ireland South candidate Seán Kelly during his European election campaign.
Outgoing MEP and former GAA president Mr Kelly posted the picture among others on social media with the caption: "I'm in Tipperary today to meet everyone and discussing my key priorities for EU Elections 2019."
Last night, Mr Lowry said he has a "personal friendship" with Mr Kelly from their work together in the GAA.
"I consider him to be one of the best European representatives that Ireland has. I have no doubt that he will be re-elected on merit," Mr Lowry added.
He confirmed he intends to vote for Mr Kelly but denied he is canvassing for him.
Mr Lowry said "friendships supersede politics" and added that he is friends with other people in the race from both Fine Gael and across the political spectrum.
Mr Kelly said he "bumped into" Mr Lowry at the opening of a co-op and that "he wished me the best of luck".
The MEP said he has taken photographs with "lots of candidates" including Independent Mattie McGrath and Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill.
Mr Lowry's links to Mr Kelly sparked a row within Fine Gael during the 2009 European elections after Mr Kelly attended a function to celebrate the former Fine Gael minister's career in politics.
This prompted the party hierarchy to speak to Mr Kelly about his ties to Mr Lowry.
Last night, Fine Gael did not respond to queries about Mr Lowry's appearance alongside Mr Kelly.
Mr Lowry's financial affairs were investigated at the Moriarty Tribunal which examined the awarding in 1995 of the State's second mobile phone licence to businessman Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone.
The tribunal found that the then-communications minister assisted Mr O'Brien in his bid to secure the licence and Mr Lowry's influence was "insidious".
Both men have rejected the tribunal's findings. Mr Lowry last night said the tribunal "is in the past".