Lowry to make statement next Thursday


THE former minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Mr Michael Lowry, is to make his long awaited personal statement to the Dail on Thursday next.

There is no provision for questions when personal statements are made to the House, and the Dail will rise that day for the Christmas recess.

In a two line press release, issued through the Fine Gael press office last night, Mr Lowry said: "In line with my previously stated commitment, I notified the Chief Whip, Jim Higgins TD, earlier today of my intention to make a personal statement to the Dail next Thursday (19th December)."

Eight Labour backbench TDs said in a statement earlier that "the time has now come" for the former minister to clarify the circumstances surrounding allegations over the refurbishment of his home in Co Tipperary.

The Taoiseach, Mr Bruton, also told the Dail: "I think Deputy Lowry should give an explanation soon to the House."

Fianna Fail TD Mr Martin Cullen claimed there was now a "clear split" between the Government parties. He said the statement from the Labour backbenchers had "serious implications" for the Government. "The seriousness of the issues surrounding Michael Lowry's departure from Cabinet has finally dawned on the Labour Party," he said.

The statement by the Labour TDs said their constituents were "deeply concerned at the implications of the allegations as they now stand". They added: "Welcome assurances have been given (including assurances by the Taoiseach and Mr Lowry) that the matter would be clarified in an early statement to the House." The TDs believed "that the time has now come for the necessary clarification".

The statement added: "There is great public unease that the issues involved should at least be clarified in outline by Mr Lowry and it is essential that this should happen urgently (and certainly during the four remaining sitting days of Dail Eireann) before the Christmas recess.

The statement was issued in the names of Mr Tommy Broughan Mr Joe Costello, Mr Sean Kenny Mr Derek McDowell, Mr Sean Ryan, Ms Roisin Shortall, Dr Pat Upton and Mr Eamonn Walsh, all from Dublin constituencies.

The Taoiseach told the Dail last night that after making his personal statement, Mr Lowry would, if required, subsequently make himself available to answer questions before an appropriate committee or sub committee of the House.

Mr Bruton was speaking against a private member's motion proposed by the Progressive Democrats, with Fianna Fail support, for the setting up of a tribunal of inquiry to investigate the Dunnes payments affair.

The PD leader, Ms Harney, responding to challenges from the Government benches, declared that her party had received £35,000 in donations from the corporate sector so far this year.

Mr Noel Dempsey, of Fianna Fail, said the personal statement "device", whereby Mr Lowry could not be questioned, was inappropriate.