The Irish Times view on Independents’ support for Government: the price of power

Leo Varadkar’s administration should at least be open about what it does in return for Independent votes

The stability of the Government may have been enhanced by the decision of Independent TD Michael Lowry to support it in crucial Dáil votes. Photograph:  Collins Courts

The stability of the Government may have been enhanced by the decision of Independent TD Michael Lowry to support it in crucial Dáil votes. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The stability of the Government may have been enhanced by the decision of Independent TD Michael Lowry to support it in crucial Dáil votes but the development raises questions about how politics operates. Lowry was convicted last June on two charges of submitting an incorrect corporation tax return and failing to keep a proper set of records.

Judge Martin Nolan noted that the maximum penalty available to the court was a five-year term but said he did not think a custodial sentence was appropriate in the case. He fined Lowry €15,000 personally and his company, which trades as Garuda, €10,000. He also disqualified the TD from acting as a director of the company for three years.

Lowry’s conviction for tax offences came more than a decade after a damning report by the Moriarty tribunal found that he had acted inappropriately in the awarding of the State’s second mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone when he was minister for communications back in 1996.

The Government needs to reassure the public that no deal of any kind has been done with Lowry as the price of his support. When asked if there is a deal, a Government spokesman would only say that Independent TDs who support the Government have access, for information purposes, to the offices of relevant Ministers and the Taoiseach for particular queries. This implies that Lowry, like the other Independents who support the Government, will have special access when it comes to constituency matters but it begs the question about what else they will obtain in return for their support.

Galway TD Noel Grealish also moved to declare support for the Government in the wake of the departure of Denis Naughten and he too will have special access to the Taoiseach and Ministers.

The Government argues that it has no control over who decides to support it in Dáil divisions but it appears that it actively sought the backing of the Tipperary TD and others. It should at least be open about what it does in return for that support.

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