FG trustees to remove Lowry as chairman in January


THE trustees of the Fine Gael party wilt remove Mr Michael Lowry as their chairman at their next meeting in January.

Meanwhile, a number of Fine [Gael TDs were openly critical over the weekend of Mr Lowry's handling of his political and business affairs. There was a universal view that he had damaged the party in Government.

Government and Fine Gael sources were privately speculating that Mr Lowry could lose his business with Dunnes Stores in the coming months as he faced into protracted negotiations about his liabilities to the Revenue Commissioners. A spokesman for Dunnes Stores was unavailable for comment yesterday.

A spokesman for the Fine Gael party confirmed yesterday that on his resignation as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications a month ago, Mr Lowry had indicated that he would be prepared also to resign from his position as chairman of the trustees of party.

A number of Mr Lowry's party colleagues were openly critical on RTE yesterday of his Dail statement.

Mr Jim Mitchell TD, a former minister, said he was impressed by the comprehensiveness of Mr Lowry's statement and the fact that he did not hold back even damaging details about himself. That did not take away from the fact that it was extremely damaging for Fine Gael as a party "and ruinous for Michael Lowry, himself.

Mr Paul Bradford TD, who sat beside Mr Lowry as he delivered his Dail speech, said there were questions which still required to be answered. They were experiencing a very difficult time for the Fine Gael party, for the Government and for politics generally.

Mr Michael Finucane TD said that when the Dail resumed after Christmas, they were likely to face further questions on the whole affair.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Mr Donal Carey, said that, as Mr Lowry laid out his affairs, he was surprised by the extent to which Mr Ben Dunne seemed to have a total run of the entire operation.

Mr Michael Ring TD said he was surprised Mr Lowry did not inform the Taoiseach that everything was not in order. On the question of Mr Lowry's continued membership of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, he said that was an issue that would have to be discussed. "It is a very difficult position for Fine Gael down the road," he added.

Ms Mary Flaherty TD said they were all just amazed with the story that unfolded. There were certainly as many questions raised as were answered.

"I don't think we in Fine Gael have come fully to terms with all we have heard and its implications," she continued. "I think all Fine Gael backbenchers share the disillusionment and annoyance the public feel and I think people are really just depressed about it and want, maybe, to let it sit."