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Friday 23 February 2018

Revenue raid Lowry on second visit to his home

Ex-minister is first sitting TD to be searched by taxman

Michael Lowry, Independent deputy for Tipperary North
Michael Lowry, Independent deputy for Tipperary North
The house in Holycross, Co Tipperary, owned by Independent TD Michael Lowry

Ralph Riegel and Tom Brady

A REVENUE raid on the home of former Fine Gael government minister Michael Lowry was the second visit by officers in the space of a week.

It is understood that Revenue officials first visited the property last week but Mr Lowry was away at the time.

He became the first sitting TD to be subject to a Revenue raid. The unprecedented move is linked to an investigation into his financial affairs.

Mr Lowry was spared the embarrassment of a raid taking place while the Dail was sitting, as it broke for recess at the end of last week.

But in a highly unusal move, officials called to his gated home at Holycross, Co Tipperary, on Tuesday with a search warrant and accompanied by gardai. They also visited the offices of a professional firm in Dublin as part of their ongoing operation.

Mr Lowry is the first sitting TD to have been the subject of a Revenue raid on his home, although several made significant settlements, including former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and, more recently, Independent TD Mick Wallace.

Mr Lowry himself previously made a tax settlement of €1.4m to the Revenue in 2007 after details emerged of secret payments to him and his refrigeration company by businessman Ben Dunne.

He had earlier availed of the tax amnesty put in place in 1993 by then finance minister Bertie Ahern.

The Revenue decision to search the house this week was extremely unusual, according to tax experts. They said Revenue officials sought warrants only under rare circumstances.

Revenue officials had apparently called to Mr Lowry's home last week but he was overseas on a short break.

It was decided to call back to the property this week. Gardai were only present in a support role.

The Independent Tipperary North TD refused to comment to the Irish Independent at his Holycross property. "Contact my constituency office," he said.

But Independent councillor Eddie Moran, part of the 'Lowry team', said the veteran TD had not been bothered in the slightest by the raid and had

"He's well able to handle himself. He's been dealing with this for 20 years," said Mr Moran who had been speaking twice on the phone to Mr Lowry after the Revenue raid.

The Revenue Commissioners said that it could not discuss individual cases.

It is understood that both the Dublin and Tipperary raids took place on foot of warrants obtained by the Revenue Commissioners.

The raids followed Mr Lowry's insistence last March that he would not answer questions about a secretly taped conversation between himself and Northern Ireland businessman and property 'scout' Kevin Phelan. Details of the tapes were revealed by the Sunday Independent.

The recordings, which relate to private conversations that took place more than a decade ago, suggested that Mr Lowry was concerned about the expected fallout from the 'Doncaster Rovers module' of the Moriarty Tribunal.

When the transcript of the conversation was published, Mr Lowry confirmed that he had made a payment of £248,624 to Mr Phelan in August 2002.

This payment made headlines because, in a statement by his solicitors to the tribunal in 2007, Mr Lowry indicated that a payment of £65,000 to Mr Phelan in April 2002 was the only one he had made.

Mr Lowry is highly regarded in Tipperary North where he has been an Independent TD for 16 years. The father of three was first elected to the Dail in 1987 and his organisational talents and business acumen saw him promoted to the frontbench of FG leader John Bruton.

When Taoiseach Albert Reynolds saw his coalition collapse in 1994, Mr Lowry was appointed Transport, Energy and Communications Minister but resigned after revelations in the Irish Independent about his business dealings with Ben Dunne in November 1996.

Mr Lowry stood down from FG in 1997 but has been elected on the first count in all subsequent elections.

Irish Independent

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