Troubling picture of Michael Lowry trying to manage information
The Tipperary TD so far will not answer questions on the recorded phone call
Michael Lowry. The tribunal was inquiring into DRFC deal when the tape was made. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A transcript of the conversation was published three weeks ago by the Sunday Independent .
The conversation does not appear to raise issues for the findings of the Moriarty tribunal other than to support them.
However the tape does suggest a troubling picture of Lowry operating behind the scenes seeking to manage what information the tribunal would be given in the course of what it called its Doncaster Rovers module.
A second, and probably more troubling issue, is Lowry’s admission, in the wake of the publication of transcript, that he did indeed make a £248,624 payment to Phelan in August 2002.
There are a number of aspects to this, not least the fact that Lowry, through his solicitors, told the tribunal in 2007 that a £65,000 payment he made to Phelan in April 2002 was the only payment he made to the Northern Ireland land scout.
In his tribunal report, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty concluded that Lowry was at an early stage involved in some way in the 1998 Doncaster Rovers transaction, despite the evidence from Lowry, businessman Denis O’Brien and others, that the deal belonged solely to O’Brien.
The transcript of the phone conversation arguably lends credence to the finding because of Lowry’s evident anxiety that Phelan might communicate something to the tribunal that would link him to the £4.3 million deal.
The deal involved the purchase in August 1998 of Doncaster Rovers Football Club Ltd (DRFC), which owned the lease on a stadium. Phelan, who never gave evidence to the tribunal, was the land scout who spotted the development potential of the site. He was to get a percentage of any profits.
The transaction was effected by a company called Westferry Ltd buying DRFC. At the outset, Westferry was owned by Phelan’s Isle of Man trust, the Glebe Trust. By the time the transaction was concluded, Westferry was owned by an O’Brien trust.
The conversation between Lowry and Phelan was taped in 2004, by Phelan, who gave it to the Sunday Independent . At the time the tribunal was conducting private inquiries into the DRFC transaction.
Two years earlier, a Dublin accountant by the name of Denis O’Connor held negotiations with Phelan concerning demands Phelan was making for fees he said he was owed, from the DRFC deal and from other English deals the tribunal had been told involved Lowry, but not O’Brien. O’Connor apparently negotiated with Phelan for both O’Brien and Lowry.
The tribunal, in its final report, said that the 2002 payments made as a result of these negotiations – £65,000 by Lowry and £150,000 by O’Brien – led to Phelan becoming involved in the presentation of false evidence to the tribunal.