Belfast Telegraph

Lowry defends access to ministers

Independent TD Michael Lowry has defended his right to have access to ministers despite damning Moriarty tribunal findings against him.

The disgraced Tipperary South representative confirmed leading delegations, including some businessmen, to meet several cabinet members in the past year but refused to name names.

Mr Lowry said he made no apologies for securing access for constituents before lashing out at Labour Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who cautioned colleagues to reassess who they meet.

"I would remind her that my rights and entitlements are not granted by her or the Government. They are granted by the people I represent under the Constitution," he said.

Mr Lowry's access to the cabinet was called into question after it emerged he brought a business group to the Custom House for talks with Environment Minister Phil Hogan in March last year. It was just six days after damning tribunal findings against him were published and amid calls for his resignation.

Mr Lowry then revealed he has brought in several delegations over the last year for talks on local and national issues. He declined to name the ministers involved and would only say the issues related to local and national matters and included education.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, said it would be better if the meeting had not happened even if it had been scheduled well in advance of the Moriarty publication.

The tribunal found Mr Lowry had insidious and pervasive influence on the competition for the state's second mobile phone licence in the 1990s. The former minister was found to have received payments of IR£447,000 from businessman Denis O'Brien - now a billionaire telecoms and media mogul - who went on to win the lucrative licence.

The meeting with Mr Hogan went ahead despite huge condemnation of Mr Lowry at the time including calls for him to resign his seat and a motion of censure in the Dail. Mr Hogan himself said last year that he would have "no truck" for those found to have behaved in the manner described by Moriarty, 48 hours after the meeting.

Both Mr Lowry and Mr O'Brien reject the findings of the inquiry.

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