Lowry: No regrets on 'not bad-looking' note

Michael Lowry has defended passing a note to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny recommending his former adviser to a State Board. The note said the female advisor "wasn't bad looking".

Lowry: No regrets on 'not bad-looking' note

Michael Lowry has defended passing a note to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny recommending his former adviser to a State Board. The note said the female advisor "wasn't bad looking".

The Tipperary TD said in hindsight the note was "unnecessary", but that he considered it a reference.

Mr Lowry told Tipp FM: "She had asked me on Wednesday morning if I would mention it that she was available to be reappointed.

"I wrote a note to the Taoiseach. I would consider the note to be a reference for Valerie O'Reilly. I didn't put any pressure on the Taoiseach."

Last week in the Dáil, Michael Lowry passed a note to Enda Kenny saying: "Taoiseach, would you please consider reappointing Valerie O'Reilly to the board of the NTA (National Transport Authority). A woman, bright, intelligent and not bad looking either! Michael Lowry."

Valerie O'Reilly, who was Deputy Lowry's adviser for 10 years, has been a board member of the National Transport Authority (NTA) since 2010 and has earned more than €50,000 in fees from the NTA in that period.

Mr Lowry told Tipp FM that the comment was a lighthearted one and that he has not received any complaints.

He said: "It was a light-hearted comment and obviously, in hindsight, it was unnecessary.

"I haven't had any great discussion or contact from women saying they were unhappy at all, but yes I accept that it was a light-hearted, unnecessary comment."

Today, Mr Lowry told Newstalk Lunchtime he does not have anything to regret and Ms O'Reilly is not offended by the remark.

He said: "I've never heard of a situation where a woman took exception to a compliment on her appearance, on her dress, on her shoes or on her hairstyle.

"The bottom line is in my constituency I have many women who support me at election time. Those women support me because they know I treat women with courtesy and respect."

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Deputy Lowry would be aware of the changes to the State Boards appointments system.

Mr Flanagan said: "I contact the Taoiseach on a regular basis through modern means of technology, but Michael Lowry adopts the more traditional role of writing a note, but Michael Lowry would be aware of the process for appointment to State boards which has been reformed quite substantially."

Appointments 'should not be based on who you know'

John Devitt from Transparency International, said the problem was much wider than the note-passing incident, and that Government has shown little appetite for real change.

Mr Devitt said: "We would call for the final decision to appoint someone to the board of a public body to be made by the Oireachtas, not by the Minister.

"Those appointments should be made on the basis of merit and expertise, not on who you know.

"We need to see measures aimed at building trust in politics, and at the moment Government doesn't seem to have the will to take the hard decisions that will restore public trust in the political process."

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