State could pursue Lowry for case costs
The State could seek to make former Minister Michael Lowry responsible for any costs that arise from the cases being taken by failed bidders in the 1995 mobile phone licence competition.
It could also seek to make the billionaire telecoms entrepreneur, Denis O’Brien, responsible.
The issue was mentioned during a hearing in the Supreme Court this week where the court directed that the State pay the legal costs of the two parties in their successful case that their claims be allowed proceed, despite the lapse of time since the competition.
The cases are being taken by Persona, an entity associated with the businessmen Tony Boyle and Michael McGinley, and Comcast, an entity associated with businessman Declan Ganley.
During the hearing counsel for the State John O’Donnell SC mentioned the possibility of the State serving notices of contribution and indemnity against other parties.
According to legal sources, this is a common procedure whereby a party in a case says any costs arising from it losing the case should be borne by one or more of its co-defendants.
It is also possible for a party to seek to have another party joined to the case and then served with such a notice.
Persona’s case is against the Minister for Enterprise, Ireland and the Attorney General. The Comcast case is against the Minister for Enterprise, Esat Telecom, Mr Lowry, Mr O’Brien, Ireland and the Attorney General.
Mr Lowry said such a move by the State would be “utter rubbish and nonsense”.
He said he was acting as a minister of the government at the time and did not make the decision as to who won the licence.
“I can’t see how the State could shift the emphasis to me or to anybody else,” he said.
Mr Lowry said that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to let the cases proceed, he had written to the Government to say he would “not stand for anything less than a full hearing and would not be a party to any settlement”.
Mr Boyle said that, in the light of the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal against Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien, he was “astonished” but not surprised that the State was defending the case he was taking. He pointed out that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, had said he accepted the tribunal’s findings.
A spokesman for the Department of Communications, the department with direct responsibility for the matter, had no comment. The department has said previously the Government had decided to fight the Persona and Comcast cases.
Efforts to contact Mr Ganley or a spokesman for Mr O’Brien were not successful. Mr O’Brien has in the past said he would welcome the claims made being tested in court.
The Moriarty Tribunal found that Mr Lowry interfered in the licence competition to the benefit of the winning bid, Mr O’Brien’s Esat Digifone.