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Pressure on Kenny after poor Dail show

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has weakly condemned Michael Lowry but stopped short of calling for the disgraced TD to resign.

The Fine Gael leader was coming under increasing pressure today to take a harder line on Mr Lowry's political future.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said his party would try to run the Tipperary North TD out of Leinster House if Mr Kenny was not willing to take action.

However, a defiant Mr Lowry said they can "send in the Army" for all he cares because he will "not walk away from the overwhelming mandate" given to him in the recent election.

Mr Martin threatened to table a motion seeking Mr Lowry's resignation from the Dail if he did not leave voluntarily.

Such a move could cause a severe headache for the Taoiseach as he has so far only said that the TD would resign in an "ideal world".

Mr Lowry cut an isolated figure in the chamber last night as he read from a script for 60 minutes before being stopped with 10 pages left to go.

The debate over the Moriarty Tribunal continues in the Dail today with the Taoiseach due to take questions this afternoon.

Opposition parties are set to try to embarrass Mr Kenny and his party by highlighting the nature of their fundraising efforts in the mid-1990s and the links to Mr Lowry.

Mr Kenny has tried to distance himself from the TD by pointing out that Fianna Fail allowed him to prop up their government for nearly 10 years.

"I cannot imagine a mandate from the Irish people -- or true democrats anywhere -- that would involve an order or desire or permission for the behaviour outlined in the report," said the Taoiseach.

He did not clarify whether he fully accepts the report's findings but said he "welcomed" its recommendations.

Mr Kenny also claimed that Mr Justice Michael Moriarty "exonerated" others members of the then rainbow government.

However, he admitted that it was a mistake for Fine Gael not to immediately provide all details of donations.

Speaking about a $50,000 donation from Norwegian company Telenor that was prompted by Denis O'Brien, the Taoiseach said: "The circuitous and clandestine way in which this cheque was routed to the party was also wrong."

Credibility

Micheal Martin said: "It is now incumbent upon the Taoiseach to give his views on the credibility of a Government member whose evidence has not been accepted by a tribunal established by the Oireachtas."

He accused Fine Gael of believing "that accountability is for other people".

The debate took place as gardai confirmed that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is considering a full-blown probe into Mr Lowry's financial affairs.

Responding to the news, the former minister fumed: "Let me make it quite clear here tonight, you can send in CAB, you can send in the Army, you can send in who you like to investigate my affairs, after all of these investigations, and there'll be no IR£900,000 found because it was never there."

He said the tribunal has been "Chinese torture" and has "taken an enormous toll on me in every respect".

kdoyle@herald.ie