Monday 23 September 2019

Varadkar brushes aside controversy over Fine Gael candidate posing for picture with Lowry

Image: Michael Lowry, third from left, poses for a photograph with Seán Kelly, second from right
Image: Michael Lowry, third from left, poses for a photograph with Seán Kelly, second from right
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has brushed aside controversy over a photograph of a Fine Gael election candidate with controversial TD Michael Lowry saying is "a decision for them".

Fine Gael European Election hopeful Séan Kelly posted a photograph of himself and Mr Lowry on social media after he encountered him on the campaign trail in Tipperary.

The decision was criticised by the Opposition with Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin claiming the "chummy" picture raises questions about Mr Lowry's relationship with his former party.

Mr Lowry and his refrigeration company were last year fined a combined €25,000 for tax offences following a court trial.

Previously Mr Lowry was criticised in the 2011 Moriarty Tribunal report.

The Tribunal found that, at the time that he was a Fine Gael communications minister, he assisted businessman Denis O’Brien in Esat Digifone’s bid to secure the awarding of the State’s second mobile phone licence in 1995.

Both men have rejected the Tribunal’s findings.

Mr Varadkar was challenged on whether he was happy for his candidates to pose with Mr Lowry in a photograph.

He said: "That's really a decision for them – for Seán Kelly as an MEP and for Michael Lowry as a TD.

Mr Varadkar added: "It's a statement of fact as we all know that Michael Lowry has been convicted for tax offences. At the same time he's also paid the penalty for that."

Earlier this week Mr Kelly - a former GAA president - has defended the picture saying he “bumped into” Mr Lowry at the opening of a co-op in Tipperary and he has taken pictures with other politicians from other parties.

Mr Lowry has said he knew Mr Kelly through the GAA and “friendships supersede politics”. He said the Tribunal is “in the past”.

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