FF paid €480,000 over tribunal costs


FIANNA FÁIL, 21 of whose members were criticised in the final report of the Mahon tribunal, has been paid more than €480,000 in legal costs relating to the planning inquiry.

The costs awarded to the party are the second-highest corporate claim yet settled by the tribunal, according to figures prepared for the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Public Accounts.

The party has been granted almost €483,000 in costs in respect of its involvement in the early years of the inquiry. RTÉ settled the largest corporate claim, at just more than €1 million.

The State broadcaster gave evidence surrounding the tribunal’s investigation into a £35,000 contribution made by Century Radio co-founder Oliver Barry to former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke before the 1989 general election.

A total of almost €10 million has been paid out so far to legal teams representing parties involved in the earlier stages of the tribunal’s work, when it investigated a number of corrupt payments made to Burke.

While 74 claims have been settled, a further 13 claims for a total of €823,000 remain to be decided.

The legal team representing whistleblower James Gogarty, who first revealed a corrupt payoff to Burke, topped the list with costs of more than €3.5 million.

Legal costs for the later stages of the tribunal dealing with the allegations of developer Tom Gilmartin and lobbyist Frank Dunlop have yet to be determined but are expected to run into hundreds of millions of euro.

So far, the inquiry has cost €97 million, including the third-party claims settled so far and the fees paid to tribunal lawyers. Tribunal chairman Justice Alan Mahon has estimated the final cost may approach €300 million.

The Government is setting up a legal costs unit within the State Claims Agency to deal with third-party legal costs arising from the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals.

Justice Mahon has pointed out that more than €51 million has been recovered by the Revenue Commissioners and Criminal Assets Bureau in tribunal-related investigations.

“It is also likely that the tribunal’s existence and the forensic nature of its public inquiries has led to a reduction in corrupt activity than might otherwise have been the case, and perhaps more importantly, a greater public awareness of this issue,” he stated in the final report.

The tribunal has the power to refuse to pay all or part of the costs of people who failed to co-operate with its investigations.

It says it will determine who failed to co-operate and should therefore be punished financially by having costs docked.

Before then, it will invite submissions from affected parties.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern could be one of those refused costs after the report found he had told the tribunal “untruths” and that it had disbelieved much of what he said about his financial affairs.