Belfast Telegraph

Lowry's move 'profoundly corrupt'

A former government minister attempted breathtaking corruption to double the rental value of a building owned by businessman Ben Dunne and leased to state-owned Telecom Eireann, a tribunal has found.

Michael Lowry, then Fine Gael and now Independent TD, asked a party insider, who was also a partner in a top estate agency, to influence a dodgy deal on Marlborough House in Dublin.

Mark FitzGerald, of Sherry FitzGerald and a Fine Gael trustee, refused.

A tribunal investigating payments to politicians branded Lowry's intervention - while the minister in charge of Telecom Eireann - as patently improper, and a grave dereliction of duty and conflict of interest.

Its damning finding stated: "What was contemplated and attempted on the part of Mr Lowry and Mr Dunne was profoundly corrupt, to a degree that was nothing short of breathtaking."

Mr Dunne - who was kidnapped by the IRA in the 1980s and later found notoriety after being caught with a call girl on a cocaine binge in Florida in 1992, and for payments to Charles Haughey - bought the building for IR£5.4 million in 1995.

The supermarket boss turned fitness centre tycoon attacked the tribunal's findings and rejected any suggestions he was corrupt.

When Mr Lowry intervened to effectively double the rent it would have valued the investment at IR£12.75m in just a few months.

The report, after 14 years of inquiry, said that if the deal had been successful Mr Lowry would have improperly enriched Dunne over seven years and also burdened the taxpayer.

Judge Moriarty, and an earlier tribunal from which it followed, McCracken, both uncovered trails of payments from Mr Dunne to Mr Lowry, and also Fine Gael.

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