DEPUTY Michael Lowry has strongly defended the use of campaign literature at a local school in Borrisokane, in the run-up to the General Election. On Friday, students were handed out hundreds of letters to bring home to their parents, describing how Deputy Lowry had managed to secure vital multi-million upgrade work at the school.
The letter says Deputy Lowry “ensured that the community school project was rapidly brought beyond the planning stage” and that Deputy Lowry had “brought the project right into the heart of government and made sure that the project would become a reality”.
The move was strongly criticised by Labour Cllr Virginia O’Dowd, Vice-Chairperson of Tipperary North VEC and a member of the Board of Management of Borrisokane Community College. Cllr O’Dowd said that what Deputy Michael Lowry did “had no place in education or politics.”
In a statement to the Tipperary Star, Cllr O’Dowd added: “We all strive to achieve what’s best for our VEC schools. Everybody represented on the committee and on the board of management worked towards getting this funding. In this instance, the Principal accommodated Deputy Lowry by allowing this letter to be distributed to the students during the school day. VECs cannot allow themselves to be at the beck and call of politicians looking for votes,” added Cllr O’Dowd. “What Deputy Lowry has done is to come calling at the school’s door looking for pay back. He is confusing the politics he practises at national level with doing a public service at local level.”
However, Deputy Lowry told the Tipperary Star that Cllr O’Dowd’s claims were a “farce,” and that it is standard practise for schools to sometimes circulate literature given to them recognising local representatives for their hard work. Deputy Lowry said the whole debacle was “politically motivated”. “I make no apologies for reminding the parents of Borrisoleigh Community College of my achievements after so many years of false promises,” said Deputy Lowry.
Deputy Lowry emphasised that no Oireachtas letters were used, and that it was management at the school, not Deputy Lowry himself, which chose to circulate the literature. Deputy Lowry strongly rejected that anything improper had taken place. He said it was standard practise for management of schools across the country to ask local representatives to put pressure on government for funding. In return, local TDs are entitled to publicise their efforts, particularly in relation to securing vital infrastructure and teaching materials.
Deputy Lowry said Cllr O’Dowd may “not have been in politics long”, and may not understand that schools often choose to distribute letters thanking local politicians. “This happens all over the country. There’s nothing new about this,” he said.
The board of management were “pleased and delighted” on this occasion to circulate the letters. “That’s the method they’ve always applied,” said Deputy Lowry. Borrisokane College was “very appreciative” of his efforts to upgrade the school, especially when some of the school’s infrastructure had been so dillapidated. Many of the students may not have even read the material, he added. Some of the upgrade work includes three new Science Labs, a Library, new language rooms, computers, and rooms for teaching specialised subjects such as music and technical graphics.
Matthew Carr, Principal of Borrisokane Community College, was not available for comment to the Tipperary Star this week. However, in a statement to the media, he said that schools sometimes receive material for distribution to parents and students. “The school typically facilitates these requests, provided the material does not contain anything objectionable,” stated Mr Carr, and added that “all political representatives have shown interest in the development of the school over the past 10 years.”