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Revealed: secret deals for Lowry and Healy-Rae

CONTROVERSIAL TD Michael Lowry and former Independent deputy Jackie Healy-Rae were each given three positions on state boards to hand out to supporters as part of a secret deal struck with Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen.

The Irish Independent has learned the six posts -- worth tens of thousands of euro a year in payments and expenses -- were a key part of the deals reached with Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae to ensure their support for the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition.

The full details were not known to other members of the Cabinet outside of Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen.

The revelations come in the wake of the publication of the Moriarty Tribunal report, which led Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to furiously try and distance his party from the dealings it had with Mr Lowry.

Mr Healy-Rae's son Michael -- who has assumed his father's Dail seat -- was appointed to the Citizens Information Board (CIB) during the last Government, a position he still holds. He denies his appointment was part of a deal and said he sought the job himself.

There are no rules barring TDs from sitting on state boards; and his position on the board, which the new TD said he would not give up, is worth an annual fee of €5,985 plus expenses.

The deal, the contents of which were always closely guarded, was made after the 2007 General Election and was reaffirmed by Mr Cowen when he became Taoiseach in 2008.

It also contained projects for Mr Lowry and Mr Healy-Rae's constituencies of Tipperary North and Kerry South.

Mr Lowry last night said he filled three positions during the lifetime of the Government, all with people from Tipperary.

Mr Healy-Rae claimed he could not remember the contents of his deal or if he got state positions.

However, sources said he was consistently "hassling" to get his appointment passed, particularly that of his son Michael.

His daughter, Rosemary Healy-Rae, was also given a post during the last Government.

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Mary Hanafin, then Social and Family Affairs Minister, said she put Michael Healy-Rae on the CIB board on the orders of Mr Cowen, but was unaware if it was part of a deal.

"The Taoiseach asked me at the time to do it," Ms Hanafin told the Irish Independent. "I'm not aware if it was part of any deal."

Mr Lowry's appointments were:

  • Sean Fogarty, who was given a position with the Equality Authority, which is based in Roscrea in Mr Lowry's constituency.
  • Thurles-based Billy O'Dwyer, who was given a place on the Irish Greyhound Board.
  • Valerie O'Reilly, who does PR work for Mr Lowry, was given a post with the National Transport Authority.

Mr Lowry defended the appointments and said all were doing a good job.

"The feedback on the appointments that I have made has been exceptionally good," he said. "All of them are very competent and able people. As part of my agreement with the Government, I had three appointments to state boards. It was part of the deal and that was it."

Sources also said Mr Healy-Rae got Killarney-based engineer Colm Lonergan on the board of the National Roads Authority. Mr Lonergan refused to comment last night.

Barrister Rosemary Healy-Rae was appointed to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal by then-Justice Minister Brian Lenihan in 2007, and was reappointed for another three years by Dermot Ahern last December.

She is considered well-qualified for the post and there is some confusion over her appointment, with numerous people saying she would have been given the position anyway.

Well-placed sources from the FF-Green coalition said Mr Healy-Rae wanted "his daughter plus two" other state board positions.

Mr Lenihan said he had high regard for Ms Healy-Rae and said it wasn't conveyed to him that it was part of a deal.

"I was doing it anyway," Mr Lenihan said last night.

"I've known her for a long number of years and she is a very able person."

Another source said: "Jackie was the one who was always giving grief about the board appointments, not Lowry. He hassled and hassled and hassled about that, Jackie, and about Michael being appointed to something."

Jackie Healy-Rae, who is considering a run for the Presidency, last night said he couldn't remember the contents of the deal. "I really don't know at this stage," he said. "I don't, I swear to God. Between what I looked for and what I got, that's where I'd be getting confused."

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