Lowry criticises Moriarty tribunal in advance of report

Thu, Jan 14, 2010, 00:00

FORMER MINISTER Michael Lowry has criticised the Moriarty tribunal for the conduct of its investigation, the €300 million cost of the inquiry and the fact €40 million has been paid to its own legal team.

In a lengthy statement of more than 3,400 words, issued in advance of the “impending publication” of the tribunal report, Mr Lowry said that he had been denied the opportunity to address the evidence given since 2005 about the issuing of the mobile phone licence in 1996.

The tribunal’s registrar, Siobhán Hayes, had no comment yesterday as to when the report might be published, or on Mr Lowry’s statement.

Government sources said the tribunal’s report was still expected to be published next month.

Mr Lowry said the main allegation the Moriarty tribunal had made against the licence process related to the involvement of Dermot Desmond as a 20 per cent shareholder in Esat Digifone, which the tribunal claimed breached the rules of the competition. Mr Lowry said this theory was overturned last year when the State counsel, Richard Nesbitt, gave evidence of written and oral legal advice he provided to the office of the attorney general one week before the second mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat Digifone.

“Nesbitt’s advice to the government was perfectly clear. That was to issue the licence and that there was no problem about this ownership issue. The licence was issued on foot of Nesbitt’s advice,” he added.

“The Moriarty tribunal is perfectly happy to make outrageous allegations against me . . . based on theory and hypothesis and to put these allegations into the public domain in a fanfare of devastating publicity.

“However, they are not too keen on giving me the opportunity to properly defend myself . . . It is an injustice.”

The former minister insisted he had no role in the decision-making process on the licence and that had been confirmed by all 17 civil servants involved in it.

“It was not possible for me as minister to meddle in the process or direct a result without the collusion of a host of civil servants. I sincerely hope that the civil servants involved in this process will finally have their reputations vindicated.

“There is not a shred of evidence since 2001 to indicate that I influenced the licence process. This is simply because it never happened.”

Mr Lowry gave details of his business dealings since 1996 and said there had been no financial benefit to him in any of them.

“All monies examined by the Moriarty tribunal and credited to my personal and business accounts are tax compliant. My taxation affairs are in order. I am in possession of tax clearance certificates for my business and as an individual.”

He said that for 15 years he had been subjected to unrelenting, extensive investigations by several State agencies and now earnestly hoped that he could finally gain closure and enter the future free from institutional scrutiny.

Some parts of Mr Lowry’s statement have not been reported by The Irish Timeson legal advice.