DISGRACED Independent TD Michael Lowry did not clock into the Dáil for a full month of sittings after the election.
His first day to officially sign in was the day after the Moriarty Tribunal found he had helped businessman Denis O’Brien to win a mobile phone licence from the state.
As he prepared statements in response to its findings — he used his swipe card for the purpose of expense and allowance claims on the Friday and Monday after the report was published — even though the Dáil was not sitting on those days.
But in an ironic twist, the Tipperary North TD did not record his attendance — and will not be entitled to expenses — for the two days in which he robustly defended his name in the House and faced down a motion of censure against him.
Attendance records for the first five weeks of the new Dáil show independent TDs turned up most often under the new clocking in system.
But Deputy Lowry only clocked in three times between February 25 and March 30.
His first was on Thursday, March 24 — amid calls for his resignation as a TD following the publication of the Moriarty Report the day before.
As he prepared his statement in response, he clocked into work on the following day, a Friday, and the next Monday, even though the Dáil was not sitting.
Under Oireachtas rules, members must clock in 120 days throughout the year to claim their allowances and expenses for accommodation and travel. But it does not matter whether these are sitting days or not.
On the Tuesday evening Mr Lowry launched an all-out assault on the tribunal, using Dáil time to claim it had carried out a “witch-hunt” against him.
Despite making what was the most important speech in his political career, he did not clock in that day when he insisted to the House that he had not received benefits from Denis O’Brien.
He did not clock in on the Thursday either, when he defended himself in a motion of censure and refused to quit as a TD despite a symbolic all-party bid to oust him.
In contrast, newly-elected Wexford Independent, Mick Wallace, clocked in 21 days since being elected — including most Mondays and Fridays.
Leader of the technical group of independents, Finian McGrath of Dublin North Central, was also in the Dáil on 22 days in the first five weeks.
Joe Higgins of the United Left Alliance turned up 22 days — including the eight official sitting days and an extra 14 days when the Dáil was off.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved