Lowry forced to declare UK land after complaints

Michael Lowry has been forced to declare investment land he owns in Wigan after 83 complaints about his affairs were lodged with the clerk of the Dáil.

The Independent TD reversed his decision not to register his interest in the 22-acre site in Wigan, which he had previously claimed was “worthless”.

In a statement, Mr Lowry said he would now declare his 50% share in the land but believed he was under no obligation to do so because it was of “negligible value”.

“I have made this entry in response to wildly inaccurate speculation regarding its value,” he said.

The Oireachtas confirmed it had received an amended declaration from Mr Lowry. It also said the clerk of the Dáil had received 83 complaints from the public calling for a probe into the Tipperary North TD’s assets. The Wigan property, which was the centre of blackmail allegations investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal, has twice been considered for lucrative rezoning options in the last year[/url].

Wigan Council recently confirmed the site will not form part of a proposed employment park.

However, a proposal has been submitted by a neighbouring landowner to include it in residential development.

Last week, Mr Lowry said it may take 10 to 15 years for the site to achieve its full rezoned value and that he would not declare it until this happened.

However, an agent working on his behalf was later contacted under the guise of a potential buyer. He deemed an offer of €6.7m for the plot owned by Mr Lowry and his business partner Liam Carroll to be cheap, but broadly acceptable.

It is not clear what will happen to the individual requests for a probe into Mr Lowry’s original failure to declare the land.

The level of complaints received on this issue is unprecedented.

Under the Ethics Act, the clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan, refers all eligible complaints to the Dáil committee on members’ interests.

Some requests were lodged after last week’s revelations regarding his holding and many more arrived following a call for complaints in a Sunday Independent column.

Mr Lowry bought the Wigan site in 2001 with Liam Carroll, another member of [url=http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/politician-has-had-longstanding-partnership-with-developer-212367.html]his horse racing syndicate.

Fees paid to a land scout for the site were deemed by the Moriarty Tribunal to be part of a payment, pooled with a contribution from Denis O’Brien, to cover up their shared involvement in the purchase of Doncaster Rovers FC.

Earlier yesterday, in an interview with Tipp FM, Mr Lowry criticised the Irish Examiner’s reporting of his interests and said the articles were “erratic”, “inconsistent”, and “factually inaccurate”.

Clarification of Lowry’s points on Wigan land

In an interview with Tipp FM, Independent TD Michael Lowry said the Irish Examiner reports relating to his failure to declare development land in Wigan were “inconsistent” and “exaggerated”.

Some of the points he made require clarification.

* “Journalists can follow articles and stories but what I have to say is that [Conor Ryan] has been erratic and inconsistent. First of all, he said [the site] was included in the current rezoning and he was factually incorrect.”

Wigan Council had included Mr Lowry’s site in its proposed plans for an employment park. But last week an official said it preferred sites closer to the motorway junction. This was reflected in subsequent reports.

This summer the site was also considered for residential use and a proposal from neighbouring landholders was submitted by a neighbouring site. Final decisions on all zoning decisions will be made after an inspectors’ report is finished in the new year.

A series of documents and maps relating to the rezoning discussions have been posted online by the Irish Examiner.

Mr Lowry also said his property was unlikely to feature in the current rezoning plans. This was reflected in subsequent articles.

However, Mr Lowry said in an earlier interview with Tipp FM he expected the site to be rezoned but it could possibly take 15 years.

* “Then [Ryan] said last week it was worth €10m, he was factually incorrect.”

The €10m figure was flagged as its likely value if the site was rezoned. It was not quoted as its current price without zoning.

The figure was based on recent sales in the area and related to an estimated 25 acres of land.

Mr Lowry’s agent has said only 18 acres of the site would be suitable for development and, to reflect this, the test bid made by the Irish Examiner was lowered to €6.7m.

* “[Ryan] is saying it is worth €6.75m and he is factually incorrect. So you would expect journalists to get it right.”

This was the correct figure put to Mr Lowry’s agent. It was based on a proposed offer of £300,000 (€375,000) an acre for the 18 acres that could be developed. The agent said this would be cheap considering its prospects. His assessment of the figure was carried in the article.

The Irish Examiner also reported the same site would be worth £4,000 an acre if it was never rezoned, according to the agent. This would still be four times higher than the TDs declaration threshold set under the Ethics Act.

* “The third thing I would say today is [Ryan] said... he contacted me yesterday for comment and he writes in the article this morning that I made no contact with him. In fact I sent him a text and I don’t think that is a proper standard of journalism.”

Michael Lowry received a text message on Monday afternoon outlining the specific points that would be raised in the subsequent article. No text reply was received from Mr Lowry. Mr Lowry did not answer his phone.

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