O'Brien letter to Moriarty called tribunal 'totally biased'


THE BUSINESSMAN Denis O’Brien wrote a personal letter to the chairman of the Moriarty tribunal, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, in February, in which he said the tribunal was “totally biased”.

The founder of the Esat Digifone consortium also said the tribunal’s “activities really reaches a new low in Irish judicial history”, Mr Justice Moriarty said at the outset of yesterdays hearing.

Addressing counsel for Mr O’Brien, Jim O’Callaghan SC, the chairman said he was not going to be disconcerted by “such sideshows” and that he did not believe Mr O’Callaghan would countenance his client in another matter writing to the judge.

After lunch, Mr O’Callaghan said he and Gerry Kelly SC, for Mr O’Brien, as well as Mr O’Brien’s solicitors, Meaghers, had not known the letter was being written by Mr O’Brien.

The chairman said he was “happy to hear that”.

A number of parties at the outset said they wanted Mr Justice Moriarty to rule on certain issues before evidence was heard.

John O’Donnell SC, for the Department of Communications, said that last July the suggestion had been put to Richard Nesbitt SC, when giving evidence, that his evidence was “not credible”.

There were no evidential grounds for this suggestion, Mr O’Donnell said, and it was a matter of the “utmost concern” to the department and to the Attorney General, that this “serious suggestion” had been made.

The sworn testimony of an eminent and respected senior counsel has been challenged and rejected by the tribunal without any basis for so doing. It was the department’s view that the evidence was not accepted because it differed from the tribunal’s “working hypothesis” on the matter. The evidence represented “an inconvenient truth” for the tribunal.

Evidence was going to be given by two officials from the office of the Attorney General which would support Mr Nesbitt’s evidence. He wanted a ruling “now” that any challenge to the testimony that was about to be heard, would be based on “evidence rather than conjecture”.

He said he would object if he believed there were unfair challenges being made and would “take further steps” if he believed it necessary.

Bill Shipsey SC, for businessman Dermot Desmond, expressed “astonishment” that it was now being disclosed that officials from the Attorney General’s office had met the tribunal in October 2002. He wanted to know when the chairman became aware of the existence of a note of this meeting. The document was “highly relevant” to the evidence given by Mr Nesbitt.

When Mr O’Callaghan rose to speak, the chairman said he did not want a “regurgitation” of contributions and press releases by Mr O’Brien’s public relations adviser, James Morrissey.

Mr O’Callaghan said he was offended by the suggestion. “I don’t think I should be regarded as a mouthpiece for a PR representative.” Mr Justice Moriarty said he was not suggesting that.

The chairman said he would not be commenting on “particular minute aspects” of the proceedings. His report would be “founded unequivocally on evidence” and not on speculation and working hypotheses.

He was a judge for 23 years and “bemused” by some of the remarks being made outside the tribunal, to the effect that he was “trying to cobble together a report that will unjustly condemn” people on “flimsy evidence”.

He was mystified as to why this “unthinkable suggestion” should be made concerning someone who had been appointed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

He had learned as a judge to be “big enough and humble enough to correct errors” but he was not saying errors had been made and important matters remained to be canvassed in evidence.