Varadkar rules out coalition with TDs ‘who have issues with law’

Minister for Health weighs into debate over Michael Lowry’s support

 Michael Lowry at the launch of his election campaign  earlier this month.

Michael Lowry at the launch of his election campaign earlier this month.

 

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he would hate to see a Government dependent on Independent TDs “who have issues with the law” when asked about Tipperary deputy Michael Lowry.

He asked for his view of the controversy over the possibility of Mr Lowry supporting a Fine Gael-led Government in the next Dáil. Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined on a number of occasions last weekend to rule out working with the Independent TD.

“The only thing I would say is I really wouldn’t like to see a Government that’s dependent on any Independent, as if we’re back to that, we’re back to the kind of parish pump deals that existed in the past,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Fine Gael has never actually engaged in them only Fianna Fail has histrocially. So we don’t want to back to that. Of course the last time Michael Lowry was involved with such a deal it was with Fianna Fail.

“There are a number of Independent TDs who have issues with the law, including Mr Lowry, 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.”

The Moriarty inquiry found in 2011 that then minister for communications Michael Lowry “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone licence for businessman Denis O’Brien’s company Esat Digifone. The tribunal also found 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.

Speaking at Government Buildings on Tuesday morning, Mr Varadkar said he “wouldn’t like to see us in a position where we have to depend on any independent or small party”.

He said he was uncomfortable with talk about forming a Government because the election had not taken place yet.

“I think sometimes people may see it as disrespectful to them to be trying to form a Government before they’ve voted and the election is not yet called, not yet won,” he said.

“Certainly there is no Fine Gael candidate who is safe and they’ll all be fighting for their seats.”

Speaking on Tipperary radio this morning, Mr Lowry criticised comments made by his constituency colleague, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, who said d Labour would not do business with him.

“In relation to Alan Kelly, I’d just say that his comments smack of his customary arrogance. Effectively what he’s trying to do is circumvent the will of the Tipperary people,” said Mr Lowry.

“The bottom line is that thankfully we have a democracy, elections are due, and elections are about the people have their say and electing their representatives.

“It’s not the media, it’s not the political pundits. It’s not threats and innuendo from Alan Kelly that will make the decision; it’s the people who will make the decision known,” he said. “I haven’t at any stage spoken to any political party about any alliances or any pacts or any agreements after the election.”

On Monday, Mr Lowry said the controversy over his role in the next government was a “ridiculous fuss about nothing”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said on Tuesday morning that Labour will not depend on Mr Lowry’s support in Government.

Mr Howlin said the party wanted the current Coalition returned to power “and we believe that’s what’s going to happen”.

He added that Labour’s position on Mr Lowry was clear. “The leader of the Labour Party [Tánaiste Joan Burton], the deputy leader of the Labour Party [Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly], every member who has already censured Michael Lowry have made it clear that we will not be dependent on him for support,” said Mr Howlin.

“Our objective is to get the current government elected... think the Irish people will reflect on that, they won’t want a situation that pertains in Spain where six weeks after an election we have no government.

“They’ll want to continue the progress we’ve made as a country. They’ll want to do that in a balanced way which means having a centre right and a centre left government both participating.”

Fine Gael and Labour supported a motion of censure against Mr Lowry after the Moriarty tribunal released its findings.