Minister of State Alan Kelly has called on the Independent TD to stop ignoring the questions arising from evidence that emerged two weeks ago about payments to a land agent. He is the most senior politician in the Government side of the Dáil to make such a call publicly.
In a submission to the tribunal in 2007, Mr Lowry claimed that only £65,000 was paid to Northern Ireland agent Kevin Phelan to settle fees relating to a land deal in Wigan. But details were published two weeks ago of a 2004 telephone conversation with Mr Phelan, in which the Tipperary North TD referred to a payment of between £200,000 and £250,000 and said it was “not put through my books”.
After that revelation, Mr Lowry said the payment in question — since revealed as £248,624, paid in Aug 2002 — was made on his behalf by his Irish company Garuda Ltd, it was recorded in its accounts and was fully tax-compliant. His 2007 tribunal submission had claimed that only £65,000 was paid to Mr Phelan and everything went through another company, Vineacre Ltd, which he half-owned.
Mr Kelly, a constituency rival and Labour Party TD in Tipperary North, said it is time Mr Lowry gave a full account of his version of events regarding the taped telephone conversation.
“It is time for Deputy Michael Lowry to answer the questions surrounding the controversy directly,” said Mr Kelly. “We are all sick and tired of having personal financial matters hanging over politics in Co Tipperary and this country.”
He said too many obvious questions remain, such as those raised by Irish Examiner investigative correspondent Conor Ryan and other journalists, which have gone unanswered by Mr Lowry.
When contacted by the Irish Examiner to seek comment yesterday, Mr Lowry said: “I’m at the races, I have no time for journalists today. I’ll talk to you Monday. Good luck.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s efforts to have the new evidence considered by the Moriarty Tribunal were rebuked by Taoiseach Enda Kenny a fortnight ago. Mr Kenny told the Dáil he has no intention of reconvening the tribunal and anyone with further evidence relating to the matter should inform the authorities.
Michael Lowry stepped down as communications minister from Taoiseach John Bruton’s Fine Gael-led coalition with Labour and Democratic Left in 1996.
He claimed to the Moriarty Tribunal that the £65,000 payment ensured Mr Phelan had no claim to his development in Wigan in England.
He rejected the tribunal’s finding, in its final report two years ago, that the deal was done to manufacture a contrived falsehood that saw Mr Phelan make a clarification about a letter that suggested a link between Mr Lowry and businessman Denis O’Brien’s Doncaster Rovers project. Any such link is denied by Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien.