Cantillon: Persona ruling ups the stakes in licence dispute

O’Brien’s involvement will increase length, complexity and cost of proceedings

Persona, once a consortium of Irish and foreign entities, is now owned by Irish businessmen Tony Boyle (pictured) and Michael McGinley.

Persona, once a consortium of Irish and foreign entities, is now owned by Irish businessmen Tony Boyle (pictured) and Michael McGinley.

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 01:00

The decision of the High Court last week to allow Denis O’Brien’s application to be joined as a defendant to the case being taken against the State by a losing party to the 1995 mobile phone licence competition, is bad news for the plaintiffs.

The case is being taken by Persona, once a consortium of Irish and foreign entities but now owned by Irish businessmen Tony Boyle (right) and Michael McGinley, the father of golfer Paul McGinley. They are expected to use the evidence heard by the Moriarty tribunal as a roadmap for the case they will make in their suit for damages. O’Brien’s ultimately unsuccessful fight with the Moriarty tribunal was a war of attrition and it was far from the case that he worked hand in hand with the Department of Communications in trying refute the suspicions the tribunal was examining.

A similarly full-on approach to contesting every element of the case Persona will try to make can be expected in the High Court. This has the potential not only to raise the number of issues the plaintiffs will have to deal with when seeking to make their case, it will also, most probably, add to the amount of time it will take the court to process the hearing.

That, and the fact that the number of lawyers due to be involved in the case is now going to increase, will rachet up the legal costs which will have to be met by the losing party.

Appeals to the Supreme Court from any High Court finding would seem inevitable.

Former minister for communications Michael Lowry is now examining whether he will seek to be joined as a defendant, on the same grounds as O’Brien, namely that it is in the interests of justice. Any such move would add to the length, complexity and cost of the pending proceedings. All of which must be a worry to the plaintiffs.

From O’Brien’s and Lowry’s points of view, if the court eventually rules that Persona’s allegations are not proven, they will be able to contrast the finding of the court with the opinion of the tribunal. And then all the parties involved can retire.

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