Michael was educated at Thurles CBS and began his community activity as Secretary of the Local Holycross – Ballycahill GAA Club. He was appointed Chairman of the Mid Tipperary Divisional Board in 1982.
Michael was first elected to Tipperary North Riding County Council in 1979. He had a trajectory of advancement and became the youngest ever Tipperary County Board Chairman. During Michael’s three year term he was responsible for a new era of Semi-Professionalism for the Senior Hurling Panel. The method of appointing selectors for the Senior County team was reviewed which led to the appointment of ‘Babs’ Keating. Babs subsequently led Tipperary to a Munster Final victory in 1987 following a famine of sixteen years. This paved the way for All Ireland victory for Tipperary in 1989.
Michael was appointed Chairman of the Semple Stadium Management Committee in 1986. The stadium was on the brink of insolvency with €1.5million in debts following the 1984 GAA Centenary expenditure. The pop festival ‘Feile’, The Trip to Tipp was the brainchild of Michael who introduced it as a means of successfully repaying the outstanding debts. To this day it is known as one of the best pop festivals of all time in Ireland.
His continued success led Michael to Dáil Éireann where he was elected as a Fine Gael TD for Tipperary North in the 1987 General Election. In 1993 he became Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party. 1994 saw him lead the Fine Gael negotiations that resulted in the formation of the Rainbow Government under John Bruton with Labour and Democratic Left. Michael was subsequently appointed Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications where he was responsible for:
- The restructuring of CIE and Aer Lingus
- Cost & Competitiveness review of the ESB
- Securing the future of Bord Na Mona – 120million of equity
- The reform of An Post
- The launch of the LUAS project
- The sale of TEAM Aer Lingus to SRS Technic
- The Rationalisation of State Bodies
- Investment Programme in Regional Airports
- Extension of DART
- New East Midlands Power Station 120 MW £21m
In 1996, Michael stood down from Government and resigned from the Fine Gael Party. He continued his political career as an Independent T.D.
Michael topped the poll in the following four General Elections, in 1997, 2002 and 2007 where he received almost 13,000 first preference votes, one of the highest counts in the country. He again topped the poll in 2011 with over 14,000 first preference votes.
Locally, Michael has the reputation of Delivery. Among many, the establishment of the Tipperary Institute in 1998 and the draining of the Mulcair River were two major achievements for North Tipperary and were as a result of Michael’s efforts.
In 2004, Michael nominated ten candidates for the North Tipperary local elections. Six succeeded in being elected and becoming members of The Lowry Team. In 2009, nine candidates were nominated and seven elected including his son Michéal who sits on the North Tipperary County Council for his second term.
In 2007, Michael took the difficult decision to join with Fianna Fail and the Green Party in forming the Government. Michael conditionally supported this Government as he believed that this was the best way to represent the interest of the constituents. He believes that “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.
It is widely recognised that by supporting this Government he ensured significant investment for North Tipperary.
Michael’s reputation of hard work, delivery and dedication ensured that he was re-elected this year with another poll topping performance.
He is now serving in the 31st Dail and continues to strive for the benefit of the people of North Tipperary and the new addition to the constituency, south Offaly.