Discovery of Esat Digfone licence award documents ordered

Judge makes orders in long-running action by consortium that lost out in 1996 tender

Documents detailing communications between businessman Denis O'Brien and others relating to the award of the second mobile phone licence in 1996 must be disclosed as part of a legal action over the award of the licence.

They are just one of 22 categories of documents for which discovery was sought yesterday in proceedings brought by Comcast International Holdings, Ganley International, GCI and businessman Declan Ganley over the awarding of the licence following a competition in which their Cellstar consortium was an unsuccessful bidder.

The categories also included documentation about the competing tenders for the licence, the process itself, the evaluation of the tenders and the qualifications of those involved in the evaluation of the tenders.

The long-running proceedings are against the Minister for Public Enterprise, the State, businessman Denis O'Brien, and former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry, now an Independent TD for Tipperary.


The defendants opposed the applications on grounds including the discovery sought is onerous with much of what is being sought dating to the mid-1990s.

Detailed judgment

In a detailed and lengthy judgment, Mr Justice Senan Allen said he was satisfied to make orders for discovery in most, but not all, of the categories of documents sought.

He said the action and pre-trial motions were “complicated to begin with”, and were further complicated by decisions of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

In their action, the plaintiffs claim the decision to award Esat Digifone the licence was not merited and the selection of that company was as a result of corruption of the process.

It is also claimed the process used to select the winning bidder for the licence was flawed.

The defendants deny the claims.

The action was initiated in 2001 and has been before the courts several times.

In several motions, the plaintiffs sought discovery of a range of documents and records from the defendants which they claim are necessary to advance the Comcast claims.

Mr Justice Allen adjourned the matter to allow the parties to consider his decision.