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FG defends meetings with shamed Lowry

FINE Gael has nothing to be embarrassed about in its dealings with disgraced TD Michael Lowry, Health Minister James Reilly insisted today.

Dr Reilly, along with Fine Gael Cabinet ministers Michael Noonan and Phil Hogan, continued to meet with Lowry even after he was castigated for abusing his role as Communications Minister by the Moriarty Tribunal.

The Health Minister confirmed today that he met Lowry and two other Tipperary politicians about the future of St Ursula's Nursing Home in Thurles in November.

"I can't refuse to meet with public representatives...He has an electoral mandate and I have to acknowledge that," said the minister.

Dr Reilly defended Fine Gael's dealings with Lowry, stating the party took action "to censure him in the strongest possible way" which was to remove him from the party.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has stood by his right-hand man, Mr Hogan, amid criticisms of the environment minister's meeting with Mr Lowry around the time the tribunal's final report was published.

Despite Mr Kenny calling for Mr Lowry to resign as a TD in the wake of the Moriarty report, Fine Gael ministers continued to meet with him.



Cynical

The report was published on March 22 last year yet Mr Hogan met with Mr Lowry just days after the tribunal accused him of a "cynical and venal abuse of office".

Two Cabinet colleagues expressed concerns about Mr Hogan's meeting with Mr Lowry, just 48 hours before Mr Hogan said he had "no truck" with anybody criticised by the report.

The minister met the Independent TD as part of a delegation with a plastics recycling company, Filmco, which was seeking to save 34 jobs.

Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan and Social Welfare Minister Joan Burton said it would have been better if the meeting had not taken place.

But Mr Kenny, who has not held any meetings with Mr Lowry since entering office as Taoiseach, has refused to censure Mr Hogan.

But it also emerged that Mr Lowry was also granted meetings with finance minister Mr Noonan and Dr Reilly.

Mr Lowry declared he met Mr Hogan to protect jobs in the Filmco company.

He said: "They had issues that they wished to raise with the minister, the minister agreed to meet them a number of weeks previously as that issue was urgent, the meeting went ahead."

aokeeffe@herald.ie


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