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Lowry’s UK land interest to be probed

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) has been asked to investigate Michael Lowry’s failure to declare development land in Wigan, England.

The Dáil committee on members’ interests said that, given the volume of complaints received, the case justified a level of inquiry which it was not able to perform.

The committee received 380 complaints from members of the public of foot of reports that Mr Lowry owned a 50% share in a 22-acre development site in Wigan.

This had not appeared on his register of members’ interests since 2003, when it was moved out of the name of Vineacre Ltd.

Committee chairman Thomas Pringle said Sipo would need to investigate the likely value of the land, and this required specialist work.

Mr Lowry hit out at the complainants, saying he had asked the clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan, to refer the case to Sipo before today’s decision because he wanted it examined properly.

He said he had seen the letters received by Mr Coughlan and believed, given their content and origins, there was a vexatious and orchestrated campaign against him. He blamed the volume of correspondence on a newspaper article.

Under the Ethics Act, TDs are obliged to declare any property interest worth more than €13,000.

This means SIPO will have to decide if the 22-acre site in Wigan, in which Mr Lowry owns a 50% stake, is worth less than €26,000.

The period covered is 2003-2012 and it is expected that property values for each year will have to be considered. This means that pre and post-economic crash values will have to be assessed.