Wednesday 29 January 2020

Varadkar asked for support from Lowry in two calls

Former Fine Gael minister discussed constituency investment with Taoiseach

Michael Lowry, Independent deputy for Tipperary, at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Lowry, Independent deputy for Tipperary, at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Leo Varadkar actively sought the support of Independent TD Michael Lowry in two phone calls prior to his election as Taoiseach.

The new Taoiseach said just last year the controversial former Fine Gael TD has "issues with the law".

"I would hate to see a government being dependent on somebody not having to be in court or potentially being in prison. That is not what we need in this country," he said during the election campaign when asked whether Fine Gael should ask Mr Lowry for support in the event of a hung Dáil.

And last week, Mr Varadkar said he had no plans to speak to Mr Lowry in advance of the Dáil vote.

However, Mr Lowry has said the Taoiseach "clearly sought, and got, my support".

During the calls Mr Lowry, who was forced out of ministerial office and Fine Gael in 1996, impressed upon Mr Varadkar the need for investment in infrastructure particularly in South Tipperary General Hospital.

The former communications minister has agreed to continue supporting the Government on budgetary matters.

"I made him aware of a number of issues and from his response to me I am happy that he understands my position and the problems facing the constituency.

"I am particularly pleased with his approach in relation to expressing a need to invest in infrastructure such as schools, roads, hospital etc and we will be awaiting with great interest the Capital Review Programme in two months' time," Mr Lowry told his local newspaper, the 'Tipperary Star'.

The Moriarty Tribunal found that 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.

The TD's role was described as "disgraceful and insidious". Both Mr Lowry and Mr O'Brien have always refuted the findings.

In the Dáil yesterday, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin hit out at the relationship between the new Taoiseach and Mr Lowry.

He said the Tipperary TD had claimed locally that "in return for his support, he will have access to the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar's office, to his officials, and to his ministers".

"As Taoiseach, I hope Deputy Varadkar will put such contact to an end. He should not depend on Deputy Lowry's support," he said.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also criticised Mr Varadkar's dependence on Mr Lowry.

"I take issue at being preached to about budget responsibility from someone who has been in the courts and dealt with Revenue with regard to his tax affairs. It is hardly the kind of ethical behaviour that should exemplify the rebuilding of this country," she said.

In response, Mr Lowry accused the Labour leader of being "nasty and offensive".

"I have absolutely no doubt, and I am in this House for 30 years, that his actions and words were prompted by his Deputy from Tipperary, Deputy Alan Kelly. They would be typical of his reaction to me in my county."

Mr Lowry added: "When Deputy Howlin attacks me in such a manner as he did, he insults the people of Tipperary who vote for me as an elected representative of this House.

"I remind Deputy Howlin that, like every member of this House here, I have a democratic mandate from the people of Tipperary who have voted for me consistently and put me as their representative in this House.

"I have enjoyed their confidence and trust for more than 30 years and I hope, when the next election is called, they will re-endorse me as a member of this parliament for the constituency of Tipperary," he said.

Mr Lowry's vote ensured the new Taoiseach had the support of 58 TDs.

Irish Independent

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