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What's wrong with complimenting a woman on "on her nice dress, or a pair of shoes, or a hairstyle"?

PR advisor Valerie O’Reilly was described as “not bad looking” by TD Michael Lowry in a note to Enda Kenny last week.

Updated 14.40pm 

A FORMER PRESS advisor to Michael Lowry had a fitting Twitter riposte to the controversy over a note about her that was passed to the Taoiseach last week.

The Sunday Independent revealed yesterday how independent TD and former Fine Gael minister Lowry passed a note to Enda Kenny in the Dáil last Wednesday in which he asked him to reappoint Valerie O’Reilly to the board of the National Transport Authority.

In the note, Lowry asks Kenny if he would consider reappointing O’Reilly, describing her as “a woman, bright, intelligent and not bad looking either!”.

The story, which is also reported in some of today’s newspapers, drew this fitting response from O’Reilly on Twitter yesterday:

Lowry response

Speaking to Tipp FM this morning, Lowry said it was a “light-hearted” comment.

He said he hadn’t been contacted from women saying they were unhappy about it, but acknowledged that it was “unnecessary”.

In a further interview, with RTÉ’s News at One, the former Fine Gael TD said he had been told by the journalist who contacted him that the original note had been picked up by a Labour TD, and handed to the reporter.

He said the practice of handing notes to the Taoiseach wasn’t unusual, and stressed that it wasn’t a demand, merely a suggestion that O’Reilly be reappointed based on her capability.

On the question of whether or not the note was sexist, Lowry said he had never had a situation where “a woman took exception to a compliment on her appearance, or on her nice dress, or a pair of shoes or a hairstyle”.

Asked whether he thought it was “all a bit Father Ted” the TD responded by saying he had read “three pages of articles” on IMF boss Christine Lagarde’s fashion choices, during her visit to Dublin last week.

Fresh controversy

Valerie O’Reilly worked for Lowry as a press advisor in recent years, particularly around the time the Moriarty Tribunal report was published in 2011.

She has her own PR firm, Unicorn, which was set up in 2003, and has served on the board of the NTA since she was appointed to it by former taoiseach Brian Cowen in 2010.

This latest story is likely to raise fresh questions about state board appointments as well as Kenny’s relationship with Lowry. The Tipperary North TD resigned from Fine Gael in 1996 after several controversies including a tribunal finding that he evaded tax.

Additional reporting, Daragh Brophy.

Lowry: I’ll fight Moriarty costs ruling all the way to European Courts

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Hugh O'Connell

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