High Court vacates €650,000 ruling against Michael Lowry
Later hearing will decide if North Tipperary TD has to pay €1.74m
Michael Lowry: BBT Chartered Accountants had sought final judgment from the master arising from fees claimed for work carried out by the firm for the TD in relation to the Moriarty tribunal. Photograph: Collins Courts
A judgment for €650,000 plus VAT, 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, including that sum, 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 €1.74 million but the issue of whether it was entitled to judgment in the remaining sum was adjourned for a full hearing.
The 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, for Mr Lowry, indicated that he would appeal against the judgment decision “forthwith” on grounds that 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, Mr O’Reilly argued.
Mr Honohan said he believed he had jurisdiction to enter judgment for an uncontested amount.
This week, on consent of both sides, the High Court deputy master vacated the judgment order and all matters will now be decided at the plenary hearing. Both sides have agreed a timetable for exchange of legal documents for that hearing which will involve coming before the court again in 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 for work done for him during the McCracken tribunal. He had provided a detailed breakdown of hours expended from 1998 to 2010 and the firm also carried out consultancy work for him.
He said total fees were €2 million; two payments of €104,504 and €156,314 were made and €1.74 million was outstanding.
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.