Michael Lowry’s campaign gets off to celebratory start

Local consensus is that Independent TD will again top poll in Tipperary heartland

Part of the crowd at the launch of Independent TD Michael Lowry’s election campaign in the Anner Hotel in Thurles

Part of the crowd at the launch of Independent TD Michael Lowry’s election campaign in the Anner Hotel in Thurles

 

The recent launch of Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry’s general election campaign was no ordinary affair.

The ballroom of the Anner Hotel, in his Thurles stronghold, was decorated with balloons, providing a celebratory atmosphere, while two large television screens were placed in the foyer and the bar so that the overflow attendance could watch proceedings.

Former Tipperary hurling star Eoin Kelly, from Mullinahone, whose achievements in a glittering career include two All-Ireland medals and six All Star awards, formally launched the event.

Kelly’s presence highlighted Lowry’s long association with the GAA, a contributory factor to his poll-topping performances, now a seeming inevitability, irrespective of whatever unfavourable national publicity might come his way.

Lowry told the gathering rural Tipperary had been neglected by current decision- makers. There was talk of his work in the campaign to retain South Tipperary General Hospital and a variety of other issues. “I don’t know anybody else who could have such a spectacular launch of an election campaign,’’ said a Lowry supporter.

Lowry, despite his fall from grace as a minister and potential Fine Gael leader, and the findings of the Moriarty tribunal, remains a popular figure and successful local politician in Tipperary.

A strong work rate, a hugely efficient constituency machine, and a feeling locally among some that he has been badly treated by the national media, have made him a poll-topper since he resigned from Fine Gael and ran as an Independent in 1997.

First preferences

Tipperary NorthNoel Coonan

Tipperary North and Tipperary South have been amalgamated in a new five-seater for the forthcoming election. Six outgoing TDs, including two other Independents, Mattie McGrath and Seamus Healy, will fight for the seats, with Fianna Fáil attempting to make a comeback in a county that was once a stronghold and where it now has no seat. Sinn Féin is also on the rise.

Part of the county, with a population of almost 11,000, in the area north of Nenagh, including Borrisokane, has been included in the new Offaly constituency. It is estimated Lowry has lost more than 3,000 votes.

Yet the local consensus is he will again head the poll.

It is noted locally that Lowry, who lives in Holycross, would have done constituency work for people living in the old Tipperary South constituency over the years.

His supporters say one of his strengths is that he does not care where those seeking help come from, or what party they support. The Lowry machine responds.

Lowry honed his organisational skills as secretary of his local Holycross-Ballycahill GAA club, as county board chairman and, perhaps most critically, as chairman of the Semple Stadium management committee in the mid-1980s.

The stadium had a debt of €1.5 million, following the 1984 GAA centenary celebrations, and was on the brink of insolvency.

Lowry organised the Féile music festivals in Thurles to wipe it out, cementing his reputation in a hurling stronghold as somebody who got things done.

His achievement still lives in the folk memory and is recalled by his supporters from time to time.

They also say that he has never relied on past glories, whether it was working with the GAA, his term as a Fine Gael minister or his time as party chairman.

Tightly-knit organisation

Michael LowryWillie Kennedy

The hub of the Lowry operation is his constituency office next to Garuda Ltd, the family company manufacturing domestic electric appliances, in Abbey Road, Thurles.

It has two full-time staff and Michael Lowry jnr, who works in the business, is also available to meet constituents.

Various areas of responsibility, such as social welfare and health, have been allocated to them to ensure a speedy response. Constituents can make an appointment to personally see the TD.

Lowry is a familiar sight at events throughout the county, including funerals. And he is available at the end of a phone for emergencies.

“He has a remarkable range of contacts,’’ said one supporter.

“He has had his troubles,” said another, “but he has helped many individuals and families in distress and he has been good for Tipperary. Why wouldn’t we vote for him?’’