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FactCheck: Did Enda Kenny really call Michael Lowry 'a man of the highest integrity'?

TheJournal.ie’s GE16 FactCheck tests a claim about the Taoiseach’s erstwhile stance towards the Tipperary TD.

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AS PART OF our GE16 FactCheck series, we’re testing the truth of claims made by candidates and parties on the campaign trail.

If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, or see a claim that looks great, but you want to confirm it, email factcheck@thejournal.ie.

For this instalment, we’ve tested an interesting claim made during an intense TV debate earlier this week.

Claim: Enda Kenny once called Michael Lowry “a man of the highest integrity and honour” – Shane Ross
Verdict: TRUE

Irish political upheaval Source: PA WIRE

What was said:

During a discussion on Wednesday’s RTE’s Prime Time about the Taoiseach’s refusal to rule out accepting or seeking the support of Michael Lowry in forming a government, Ross challenged Fitzgerald:

Does [Fitzgerald] stand behind Enda Kenny’s statement in the Dáil, in 1997, after Mr Lowry resigned, that he was “a man of the highest integrity and honour”?

Fitzgerald did not answer that particular question.

On Friday, the Taoiseach definitively ruled out accepting Lowry’s support in forming a government, saying “I will not have any dealings with Michael Lowry, or any other independent.”

The facts:

Kenny spoke during a 3 December 1996 Dáil debate (not 1997, as stated by Ross), on the nomination of Alan Dukes as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.

This was following the resignation of Lowry amid scandal over the awarding of the first mobile phone license to Denis O’Brien’s ESAT Digiphone.

Kenny, then Minister for Tourism, stated:

endakennylowryintegrity Excerpts from Dáil statements made by Enda Kenny on 3 December 1996. Source: Oireachtas.ie

You can read Kenny’s full contribution, and the entire debate, here.

On the same programme, Shane Ross was himself the subject of a very specific claim, which he disputed.

Claim: Shane Ross tweeted ‘Viva Syriza’ a few months ago – Frances Fitzgerald
Verdict: TRUE, but gets one detail wrong.

During Prime Time on Wednesday night, Fitzgerald told the Independent TD:

On the other hand, Shane, you did tweet ‘Viva Syriza’ just a few months ago, and you were a cheerleader for the sort of economic policies that we saw.

Ross responded, “That’s complete nonsense, the minister is wrong about part of that.”

The facts:

Shane Ross did indeed tweet “Viva Siriza”, and “Go Syriza” on two occasions in the week before Greek elections in January 2015 (not “a few months ago”, as claimed by Fitzgerald.”)

In the first instance, he criticised IMF managing director Christine Lagarde for comments she made during a trip to Dublin:

And in the second instance, he stated that an election win for Syriza would be “good for Ireland but bad for Enda.”

He was promoting his Sunday Independent column the next day, the date of the Greek legislative elections, in which he wrote:

Enda must be praying that a miracle saves him…If Syriza wins, it may spell trouble for Europe – but it could herald a domestic crisis for Enda…
If a “red cent” of Greek debt is written off by Greece’s European creditors, Enda will look like a patsy. Greece will have succeeded where Ireland failed.

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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