Clonmel PR consultant and former president of Clonmel Chamber Valerie O’Reilly has become embroiled in a political row over cronyism and sexism claims.
This follows a request from Independent TD Michael Lowry to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have her reappointed to the National Transport Authority Board.
He made the request to the Taoiseach by passing him a hand-written note in the Dail chamber.
Deputy Lowry asked Mr Kenny to ‘consider’ Ms O’Reilly for reappointment.
However the note was left behind by the Taoiseach on his desk and when later discovered, it emerged that Mr Lowry, in his request to the Taoiseach, had described Ms O’Reilly as ‘not bad looking’.
Now the Independent TD has been criticised for cronyism in trying to get the PR consultant reappointed to a state board, and sexism for referring to her appearance.
Mr Lowry has rejected both claims while Ms O’Reilly of Unicorn PR said the ratio of women involved in public institutions is a topical issue.
“I have been a diligent and effective member of the NTA Board and I would be willing to continue to make a contribution to its work. I made Michael Lowry, my local T.D., amongst others, aware of this”, she said at the weekend.
Mr Lowry confirmed that Valerie O’Reilly had asked him to convey a message to Government that she was willing to continue as a member of the board.
“Having made enquiries as to how she had performed I was advised that she was an excellent board member. I was told that she was diligent and effective and overall had made a valuable contribution to the business of the board”, he said this week.
“I reject any accusations of cronyism. Unicorn PR has never worked for me on a voluntary basis. All work conducted on behalf of my political organisation has been paid for and conducted on a commercial and professional basis.
And he aded - “My comment about Ms. O’Reilly’s appearance was an unnecessary, light hearted comment.
The controversy blew up when Mr Lowry’s note to the Taoiseach was passed to a Sunday newspaper.
Mr Lowry said - “I was told that the Taoiseach had left it behind at his desk in the Dáil Chamber and that it was picked up and given to a journalist ‘by a Labour member of the Government Parties’.
I would have expected that the individual in question would have had the decency to return the note to either the Taoiseach or myself, rather than be politically motivated to go directly to a journalist”
And he added - “Many of my supporters in the constituency are women of all ages. These women support me because they know that I treat women with courtesy and respect. As a politician I encourage women to get involved in all aspects of society. We have heard a lot and read a lot about the lack of involvement of women in state institutions and the lack of recognition for their talents and abilities. In that context I don’t see what the fuss is about, requesting the Taoiseach to consider for appointment a women with all the necessary qualifications”.