Ministers rule out support for a majority from Michael Lowry

Alan Kelly says he doesn’t ‘pay much attention’ to Tipperary constituency rival

Independent TD Michael Lowry said: “Let [Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly] sail on, no problem. From my perspective it’s very simple. The people of Tipperary will adjudicate in due course.”  File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Independent TD Michael Lowry said: “Let [Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly] sail on, no problem. From my perspective it’s very simple. The people of Tipperary will adjudicate in due course.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Government Ministers have insisted they will not look to Independents to form a majority after the election as the controversy over the possibility of relying on Tipperary TD Michael Lowry for support continues.

Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said his party should not deal with any Independents, while Labour Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly launched an attack on Mr Lowry, saying he rarely saw the TD in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

“Independents are a loose band of individuals comprising a recipe of instability and uncertainty,” Mr Flanagan said. “They are the last thing the country needs as we seek to secure the economic recovery and keep it going.”

Mr Kelly said he did not believe it would be necessary to do any business with Independent TDs after the general election. “My ambition is to see this Government re-elected and I believe it will be re-elected,” he said.

Asked what his objection to Mr Lowry was, Mr Kelly said: “I don’t pay much attention to Deputy Lowry. I note I rarely ever see him in the constituency and I rarely ever see him in the Dáil, so I don’t pay much attention to him whatsoever.”

Simple perspective

Responding to Mr Kelly’s comments, Mr Lowry said: “Let him sail on, no problem. From my perspective it’s very simple. The people of Tipperary will adjudicate in due course.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton of Labour believes Mr Lowry’s involvement in supporting the next government is “not appropriate”, said her spokesman.

“She has made very clear her concerns about the type of secretive deals with Independents that were a hallmark of Fianna Fáil governments,” the spokesman said.

When asked about Mr Lowry, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he would hate to see a government dependent on Independent TDs “who have issues with the law”.

Mr Varadkar said he would not like to see a return to governments striking “parish pump deals” with Independents in return for support.

Fianna Fáil deal

“Fine Gael has never actually engaged in them, only Fianna Fáil has, historically,” he said. “So we don’t want to go back to that. Of course, the last time Michael Lowry was involved with such a deal it was with Fianna Fáil.

“There are a number of Independent TDs who have issues with the law, including Mr Lowry,” he added. “There are others too, and I’d hate to see a government dependent on somebody not having to be in court or potentially being in prison. That’s not what we need as a country.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said his party would not enter into any arrangement with Mr Lowry.

He said the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal could not be ignored by any party.

“You can’t dodge those,” Mr Martin said. “They are very real and significant conclusions by the judge.”

In 2011, the Moriarty inquiry found that Mr Lowry, in 1995 the minister for communications, “secured the winning” of the mobile phone licence for businessman Denis O’Brien’s company, Esat Digifone.

The tribunal also found that Mr O’Brien made two payments to Mr Lowry in 1996 and 1999 totalling £500,000 and backed a loan of stg£420,000 to Mr Lowry in 1999.

Both Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien have denied the findings of the report.

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said the controversy was “evolving into a major political embarrassment for the Coalition”.