Payment from Michael Lowry was part of agreement, says land scout

Kevin Phelan speaks about secret recording of conversation with Tipperary TD in 2004

Michael Lowry arriving at the Moriarty Tribunal at Dublin Castle in May 2008. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Michael Lowry arriving at the Moriarty Tribunal at Dublin Castle in May 2008. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons


Public Affairs Correspondent

The Northern Ireland land scout Kevin Phelan has said a £248,624 payment by Michael Lowry to him in 2002 was part of an agreement – only one half of which was revealed to the Moriarty Tribunal.

Mr Phelan has told The Irish Times that this is the explanation for a comment he made in his secret recording of a conversation he had with the controversial Tipperary TD in 2004.

Mr Phelan’s latest interjection comes as the leader of Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin has called for the reopening of the Moriarty Tribunal to consider the new information that has come into the public domain about the payments.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the tribunal will not be reopening.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has told Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty that the contents of the secretly recorded conversation are being examined by the Garda.

Mr Doherty asked whether the Garda was examining if Mr Lowry committed an offence by not telling the tribunal about the payment.

In the secret recording, made by Mr Phelan and given by him recently to the Sunday Independent , Mr Lowry asks Mr Phelan not to say anything to the tribunal about the “the 250”.

It has since emerged that this is a reference to a £248,624 payment made in August 2002 to Mr Phelan which the tribunal was never told about.

At one stage during the call Mr Phelan refers to a £150,000 payment – from businessman Denis O’Brien and which was disclosed to the tribunal by Mr O’Brien – and says “that f***ing agreement with Westferry was confidential. That’s only half the f***ing agreement.”

At the time of the conversation – which only Mr Phelan knew was being recorded – the tribunal was investigating whether Mr Lowry had any connection with a £4.3 million property deal in Doncaster in 1998 which Mr O’Brien had told the tribunal did not involve Mr Lowry.

Mr Phelan has now said that the £248,624 payment made by Mr Lowry to his, Mr Phelan’s, offshore trust, the Glebe Trust, was part of an agreement concerning his being paid money he claimed he was owed arising from his work as a land agent.

The negotiations with Mr Phelan over these demands occurred as the tribunal was inquiring into a number of land deals in which he played a role.

While Mr Lowry says on the tape that the payment was linked to a land deal in Wigan, Mr Phelan is recorded as saying that the payment went to the Glebe Trust to pay for its shares in Westferry.

The Doncaster deal was affected by the selling of the shares in Westferry, which were owned by the Glebe Trust and were sold to an offshore trust owned by Mr O’Brien.

Mr Phelan, who lives in Omagh, did not give evidence to the tribunal.

The tribunal was told of two payments to him; the £150,000 from Mr O’Brien and a £65,000 payment made by Mr Lowry and which Mr Lowry said was the only payment he made to Mr Phelan.

All the payments were made in 2002.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Michael Moriarty found that certain acts by Mr Phelan that resulted in misleading information being given to the tribunal during its inquiry into the Doncaster deal, would not have occurred had Mr Phelan not been paid the money he was seeking in 2002.

After the Doncaster hearings ended, Mr Phelan gave a sworn affidavit to the tribunal in which he said Mr Lowry had no involvement in the Doncaster deal.

In September 2005 , The Irish Times reported on the existence of a video showing a meeting between Kevin Phelan and the vendors of the Doncaster property, English businessman Ken Richardson and his associate, Mark Weaver.

Doncaster deal
The tape was dated February 2002 and showed the three men discussing the tribunal, and the view that they were still owed money arising from the Doncaster deal.

Mr Phelan suggested that he and Mr Richardson could work together, in secret, to ensure they got paid.

From how the tape is structured, it appears that Mr Phelan did not know he was being taped.