Reaction to note ‘political correctness gone mad’ - Lowry

Independent TD responds to reappointment controversy

Independent TD Michael Lowry has described as “political correctness gone mad” media reaction to his lobbying for the reappointment of public relations consultant Valerie O’Reilly to a State board.

"It is a load of nonsense and, frankly, more irritating than anything else," the Tipperary North TD told The Irish Times.

"The media is chasing me on this issue at a time when the Irish economy remains fragile and the future of Europe uncertain."

His comments followed the revelation yesterday that he had also lobbied Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, who will be appointing the new National Transport Authority board within the next month.

The Sunday Independent revealed Mr Lowry, who is a former Fine Gael minister, had passed a note to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil last week urging him to reappoint Ms O'Reilly, who is Mr Lowry's former press adviser. The note referred to Ms O'Reilly as "a woman, bright intelligent and not bad looking either".

‘Briefly’ approached

Speaking to journalists in UCD, where he attended a meeting on the university’s smarter travel campus programme yesterday, Mr Donohoe revealed he had been “briefly” approached by Mr Lowry on the issue.

“I heard what he had to say,” he added. “I made no comment about it to him.”

He said the last thing he would consider when appointing a man or woman to a State board was how they looked.

What mattered, he added, was the person’s competence, experience, commitment, and how they had done their job if already a member of the board.

Mr Lowry confirmed he had spoken briefly to Mr Donohoe in the anteroom of the Seanad chamber. “I had been following a debate on a health-related issue in the Seanad and, out of courtesy, I informed Mr Donohoe, when I met him, that I had sent a note to the Taoiseach on the reappointment,” he said.

Mr Lowry said there was a consensus that more women should be appointed to State boards and he was bringing it to the attention of the Taoiseach and the Minister that Ms O’Reilly was capable and competent.

Mr Lowry said he made no apologies to anybody for making representation on behalf of somebody he considered competent to do a particular job.