Saturday 19 January 2019

Eamon Keane: Chips are up and cash is no issue on Planet Lowry

Welcome back to Planet Lowry. He hasn't gone away, you know. I heard Michael Lowry being interviewed on the radio the other day. Mikey was talking about a plan for a giant casino for Tipperary with a replica of the White House and money was no problem at all.

And then I heard that they got planning permission for all this. Even though the law as it stands doesn't allow what they have in mind.

And then I remembered how Lowry was the one who the McCracken Tribunal found had evaded tax. And I then thought of Justice Moriarty, who believed that Lowry was guilty of a "venal abuse of power". In the opinion of the High Court judge, Lowry got benefits in kind to the tune of ¤900,000 for assisting Denis O'Brien to get the mobile licence. Both lads deny this.

And I thought, aren't we a gas 'oul country all the same? Here's Michael, despite all that, promoting a casino that awaits legislation to be legal. Only in Ireland and no one asks questions about his past.

However, let's be clear. To get planning permission for something which is not allowed by law is not in itself illegal. But how about you and I apply to open a giant brothel in the Bog of Allen? Let's get the planning permission and hopefully the Government will sort out the legislation later.

What of the casino plan itself? It will be in the middle of Co Tipperary. Some gamblers might drive down. Maybe they plan to build an airport like Knock for the high flyers to wing it down. Or maybe helicopters will land on the 3D image of the White House.

Lowry, the businessmen's friend, gave a unique assessment of the likely socio cultural impact of this new Taj Mahal. I quote: "A combination of a broad range of interactive projects on the one site will transform the economic, cultural and social life of Tipperary and the entire region."

Well, thank God for that. I mean, Tipperary has nothing cultural, has it? Like, what's the Rock of Cashel compared to a casino?

Are ye right there Michael are you right? This is a casino which takes money off people who sometimes can't afford to gamble and it's going to transform the social and cultural landscape of the county? If he had suggested building a new prison in Semple Stadium it would have had more socio-cultural impact. Help.

You may remember that Lowry at one stage suggested that the army, CAB and God knows whoever else could come in and investigate him in relation to the Moriarty Tribunal findings. I thought this was a man who was in a state of denial beyond any reasoning.

And now this. I suppose it will do him no harm to be seen to be promoting jobs whether they ever happen or not. The plan to build an all-weather racing track is smart, whatever other struggling racetracks think of it.

We've been here before, though, haven't we? From Bertie Bowl to plans to build an Irish Disneyland, we're great at the grand big plan. If only we could run an economy.

Yes, we want jobs and yes, deprived areas need building up. But is this remotely sustainable? Ben Dunne, Michael's former friend, made the valid point in yesterday's Herald that the high-rolling gambler won't travel to Tipperary.

Lowry does need political if not moral rehabilitation post Moriarty. So it's good be the Knight with the Shining Casino Chips.

But as Michael drives down from the Dail which he should have resigned from, he might consider all the ghost-housing estates he passes by. He might consider the fact that there isn't a bob to be had in this country. But he probably won't.

You see, they do things differently on Planet Lowry.

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