€650,000 judgment against Michael Lowry vacated

Hearing later on whether TD liable to pay €1.74 million to accountancy firm

A file photograph of Independent TD Michael Lowry. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

A file photograph of Independent TD Michael Lowry. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 20:06

A judgment for €650,000, plus costs, which was granted last year against Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry has been vacated on consent at the High Court. A hearing to decide whether he must pay €1.74 million to a firm of accountants will be held later.

Last November, the Master of the High Court granted judgment for €650,000, plus VAT, to BBT Chartered Accountants against Mr Lowry in relation to fees claimed for work done relating to the Moriarty tribunal.

The firm had sought judgment for a total €1.74 million but the issue of whether it was entitled to judgment in the remaining sum was adjourned for a full hearing.

Master Edmund Honohan refused to put a stay on entry of the €650,000 plus VAT judgment but did agree to grant a stay on execution of judgment until the proceedings over the remainder of the alleged debt were finalised.

At that November hearing, Aillil O’Reilly BL, for Mr Lowry, indicated his side would appeal the judgment decision “forthwith” on grounds the master lacked the jurisdiction to make the judgment order and it was unfair. If a stay was not put on entry of judgment, it would cause harm to Mr Lowry and put him to considerable cost, inconvenience and embarrassment, counsel argued.

Mr Honohan said he believed he had jurisdiction to enter judgment for an uncontested amount.

This week, on consent of the sides, the High Court Deputy Master vacated the judgment order and all matters will now be decided at the plenary hearing.

The sides have agreed a timetable for exchange of legal documents for that hearing which will involve the matter coming before the court again next November to deal with issues relating to discovery of documents.

BBT Chartered Accountants, Torquay Road, Foxrock, had sought final judgment from the master arising from fees claimed for work carried out by the firm for Mr Lowry in relation to the Moriarty tribunal. Mr Lowry’s side had sought an adjournment, arguing it was a contested case with the cause of action dating back to the McCracken tribunal in 1997.

In an affidavit, Denis O’Connor, a partner in BBT, said Mr Lowry had paid the firm in respect of work done for him during the McCracken tribunal. Mr O’Connor said he had provided a detailed breakdown of hours expended from 1998 to 2010 and the firm also carried out consultancy work for Mr Lowry. He said the total fees were €2 million but two payments of €104,504 and €156,314 were made and the sum outstanding was €1.74 million.

Mr O’Connor said solicitors for Mr Lowry had in correspondence last June and July conceded a substantial sum of money was owing but had not quantified that and instead argued the fees should not be recoverable until after the Moriarty tribunal decision on costs. There was no agreement to defer payment of BBT’s fees, Mr O’Connor said.

At the November hearing, Andrew Fitzpatrick, for BBT, said Mr Justice Michael Moriarty had recently issued a costs order in respect of Mr Lowry at the tribunal and judgment should be entered in favour of BBT.