Court clears way for Esat action


The Supreme Court has cleared the way for two unsuccessful bidders for the State's second mobile phone licence to proceed with actions challenging the manner in which the licence was allocated in 1995 to Esat Digifone.

Comcast International Holdings Incorporated and Persona Digital Telephony Ltd initiated separate actions in 2001.

Both took actions against the State. The Comcast action is also against Esat Digifone and its former chairman Denis O'Brien. Both plaintiffs challenged the licence award and claimed multi-million euro in damages.

The State in June 2007 secured orders from the High Court stopping the cases on grounds of inordinate and inexcusable delay in prosecuting them.

A similar motion by Mr O'Brien to halt the action against him on grounds of delay was "parked" pending the outcome of the consortia's appeals to the Supreme Court against the halting of their cases against the State.

In the appeals, counsel for both consortia argued they were entitled to await the outcome of the Moriarty tribunal investigation into the licence award and could not have prosecuted the claim without that and certain other material.

A five judge Supreme Court today allowed the appeals. Giving the court's decision, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said the court would allow the appeals and give its reasons in a written judgment later.

In their substantive actions, the consortia have alleged fraud, conspiracy, deceit, corruption and misfeasance in public office in relation to the mobile licence award.