someone’s looking at ya – the surveillance of Michael Lowry TD

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Issue 444, 7 August 1995:

 – Stories of a surveillance operation on Minister for Transport, Energy
  and Communications have persisted throughout the week. At first it
  was suggested that Mr Lowry was being shadowed by businessmen with
  criminal connections. Later this changed to a private detective
  agency working on behalf of businessmen. Neither story seemed to
  make much sense but then we heard that certain businessmen were
  concerned about changes which the Minister was introducing in
  relation to tendering by semi-State bodies. Mr Lowry did nothing to
  enlighten us when he admitted that he was being followed but that he
  would not be intimidated. I think it was he who pointed out that
  those who were shadowing him were not acting illegally. Yesterday
  the Sunday Tribune led with the story but said that the surveillance
  operation related to the Minister’s “private life”. The paper
  claimed that it had spoken to a security firm which turned down the
  contract which was later accepted by another firm. More than that we
  were not told, although a Government source blames it on “a Fianna
  Fail-inspired attempt to smear Mr Lowry”.

Issue 445, 14 August 1995:
                           LOOKING FOR WHAT?

The alleged surveillance operation against Michael Lowry continues to
make news and could yet end up in the courts. On Wednesday Mr Lowry
claimed that three prominent business people with Fianna Fail
connections had commissioned a firm of private detectives to monitor
his activities. He went on to allege that two senior executives of CIE
had also been targeted. The action was prompted, according to Mr
Lowry, by his previously announced commitment to break up the “cosy
cartel” which had access to semi-State contracts.

The Minister did absolve Fianna Fail politicians from complicity in the
affair but this did not lessen the anger of Michael Smith, who called
on the Minister to produce evidence that members of Fianna Fail were
behind the surveillance operation. If he did, then they would be
expelled from the party immediately. Mr Smith also challenged Mr Lowry
to provide proof of the existence of a “cosy cartel”.

Although Mr Lowry did not name names some businessmen evidently had
good reason to believe that he was referring to them. Solicitors for
former CIE chairman Dermot O’Leary and Owen O’Callaghan, a Cork
property developer, issued a statement saying that they had informed
the Minister that they intend to issue High Court Proceedings against
him and will be seeking “substantial damages”. The statement went on
to say that Mr O’Leary and Mr O’Callaghan “have no knowledge of or hand
act or part in this alleged surveillance”.

Following concerns raised by the Greencore affair in 1992 the then
Government introduced new controls for the handling of semi-State
contracts. These insist that contracts must be put out to tender save
“in exceptional circumstances”. Presumably Mr Lowry is concerned about
the use of the “exceptional circumstances” clause but three months
after his announcement that he would introduce changes he has now
created a task force to review the current processes and recommend
appropriate changes.

Issue 446, 21 August 1995:

                      “SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME”

Just when it seemed that the controversy of the alleged surveillance of
Michael Lowry, Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, was
about to be forgotten the Irish Independent decided to make it a major
story. In its lead on Wednesday the newspaper claimed that there was
little substance behind the allegations. It appears that Mr Lowry
received written warnings which, although signed, did not come from the
person whose name was at the bottom of the letters. When the story
first broke we were led to believe that there was concrete proof that
the surveillance had taken place but now this is no longer certain.
Fianna Fail were quick to latch on to the articles in the Independent
and accused the Minister of conducting a black propaganda campaign.
More than one Fianna Fail politician also called on Mr Lowry to produce
proof of the “cosy cartel” which he claimed obtained the lion’s share
of contracts placed by semi-State companies. A PD spokesman also urged
Mr Lowry to provide “specific substance” to his allegations.

Mr Lowry has kept out of sight throughout the week but did issue a
statement saying that he was unable to comment due to impending legal
action against him. It appears, however, that through his confidantes
he has leaked some additional information. The anonymous letters are
now said to contain more serious allegations concerning tax fraud,
numbered bank accounts and false passports. Sources other than the
letters are also being cited. Later in the week the Minister said that
he would make a full statement when the Dail resumed in October. It
has also emerged that the letters were signed by “D. Whelan” and
included the office phone number of Dublin architect Ambrose Kelly. A
Deirdre Whelan works in Mr Kelly’s office but it is accepted that she
is not their author. Ms Whelan is threatening legal action if she is
not given copies of the letters which purport to carry her signature.

Until this week other Government ministers had offered no opinions on
the controversy but, now that Mr Lowry was under attack, Minister for
Health Michael Noonan attempted to come to his rescue. He called on
Fianna Fail to stop “playing politics with such a serious issue”. Both
Dick Spring and Proinsias De Rossa also offered some support. Mr
Spring said that he was satisfied that Mr Lowry was correct in
referring the matter to the gardai, but no one is likely to argue with
that assessment. Mr De Rossa was more generous in saying that he was
happy with “the way Mr Lowry had handled the situation”. A Government
spokesman also came out in defence of Mr Lowry, claiming that a
surveillance operation had been carried out on the Minister and that
this was directly related to his “determination to ensure the highest
possible standards in the semi-state sector”.

Issue 447, 28 August 1995:

 – A spokesman for Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications
  Michael Lowry has said that there is no question of Mr Lowry
  answering questions in the Dail about his surveillance allegations,
  until the new session opens in October. Fianna Fail has been
  demanding an explanation from him, followed by a debate during a
  one-day Dail sitting scheduled for September.

Issue 448, 4 September 1995:

 – Noel Dempsey of Fianna Fail has accused Minister for Transport,
  Energy and Communications Michael Lowry of politicising the civil and
  public service. Mr Dempsey claims that they are being used to
  retrospectively justify the allegations which Mr Lowry made about
  corruption in the issuing of contracts in the semi-state sector.

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