Environment Minister Phil Hogan granted disgraced TD Michael Lowry an exclusive meeting and access to department officials just days after the damning findings of the Moriarty Tribunal were published.
The minister met with Mr Lowry and a business group six days after the report’s release in Mar 2011 and after calls by the Taoiseach for the TD to step down.
It was the longest scheduled diary meeting Mr Hogan held with TDs or senators from any party during his first year in office, records obtained by the Irish Examiner reveal.
The Mar 28 meeting last year in the Customs House included Mr Hogan, Mr Lowry, a department official, and a Tipperary firm lobbying for changes to rules on the disposal of farming waste.
On Mar 22, the Moriarty Report found Mr Lowry, as a former minister, received payments from businessman Denis O’Brien in the 1990s and helped him win a state mobile phone licence.
Mr Lowry had “insidious and pervasive” influence on the licence competition, received £447,000 from Mr O’Brien and imparted “substantive information” which helped the businessman’s Esat consortium win the bid, the report found.
Despite the findings and condemnation from senior members of Fine Gael and Labour, Mr Hogan went ahead with the meeting.
His spokesman justified it last night by saying the “appropriateness of the meeting was that it was in relation to the operation of farm plastic regulations”. “What transpired a few days earlier, with Moriarty, had no relationship to the meeting. There were no discussion on the fringes of the meeting.”
A copy of Mr Hogan’s ministerial diary, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows Mr Lowry was accompanied by Filmco, which recycles farm waste plastics. The meeting was an hour long.
Filmco director Jack O’Reilly said it would have been “quite difficult” to arrange without Mr Lowry’s help.
Mr Lowry’s meeting was longer than ones later in the year with industry leaders, such as Google chief Eric Schmidt, which only lasted half an hour.
The Lowry meeting is all the more significant as just 48 hours later Mr Hogan told the Dáil that he held “no truck for those found to have behaved as described by Mr Justice Moriarty”.
The day after, a Dáil censure was carried against Mr Lowry which Mr Hogan had earlier said he would back.
Mr Lowry said the Mar 28 meeting was “arranged in the normal way in accordance with my day-to-day function” as a TD and just related to industry issues raised by Filmco.
Both said the Moriarty Report was not discussed.
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald yesterday said the meeting was not appropriate, that the minister had a lot of explaining to do, and that the Government could not speak out of both sides of its mouth.
Moriarty was raised again recently after criticism of Government figures, including the Taoiseach, mixing with individuals with adverse findings made against them in the report.
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