€1.1m legal fees paid out to Mahon case builders

Biggest payment made by department since start of last year was €1.7m to engineering firm lawyers

The Mahon tribunal has begun making substantial payments to cover the legal fees of some of those it found to be involved in corruption in the planning process.

Among those to whom the tribunal has paid legal fees over the past 18 months are builders Tom Brennan and Joseph McGowan, who it found made corrupt payments to former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke.

Miley & Miley, solicitors for Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan, were paid legal fees of €1,124,455.16 last September, according to records provided by the Department of the Environment. They also received €22,322.50 and a VAT payment of €3,445.23 last year.

Two separate lawyers for Mr Burke were paid €19,348.52 and €3,545 last September.


The biggest payment made by the department since the start of last year was €1,745,487.30 to lawyers for Joseph Murphy Structural Engineers (JMSE). Two directors of the company, Joseph Murphy and Frank Reynolds, were found by the tribunal to have hindered and obstructed its work.


In 2010, the two JMSE directors took a successful action in the

Supreme Court

to have the tribunal’s refusal to pay their legal fees overturned. The effect of this judgment was to limit the grounds on which the tribunal could refuse costs, even to those subject to adverse findings.

The tribunal had refused Mr Brennan and Mr McGowan legal costs of €2.6 million but reversed its stance after settling the proceedings taken by JMSE. The two men were Ireland's largest housebuilders in the 1970s and Mr Brennan was a major benefactor of former assistant Dublin county manager George Redmond.

Last year, the tribunal made 110 separate third party legal payments, with a total value of €3.92 million. So far this year, it has paid out legal fees totalling €1.69 million.

Other former tribunal witnesses who have had legal fees paid since the start of 2013 include Brian Crowley (€17,220) and Seán Haughey (€15,401) of Fianna Fáil, and former Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor's widow Hazel (€17,740). The Christian Brothers received €99,000 in legal costs and payments were also made in respect of former television presenter Bill O'Herlihy (€31,464) and journalist Eamon Dunphy (€27,827).

Staff costs at the tribunal amounted to more than €1.1 million last year, five years since it last held public hearings.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times