State pays almost €1m in fees to Ben Dunne’s Moriarty tribunal legal team

Tribunal established in 1997 is still incurring charges and is estimated to have cost €65.5m

The State has paid out almost €1 million in legal fees to the legal team of businessman Ben Dunne, according to newly released records.

The payment of €973,792 was made in January to HBMO Solicitors in settlement of Mr Dunne’s legal costs for the Moriarty Tribunal.

Mr Dunne had been a key witness at the lengthy tribunal, which investigated payments to politicians including the late taoiseach Charles Haughey and Tipperary TD Michael Lowry.

The tribunal – which was established in 1997 – is still incurring costs and is now estimated to have cost €65.5 million, of which 84 per cent is legal fees.


Mr Dunne, the former supermarket tycoon and now owner of a popular chain of fitness centres, said he was aware of the transfer of the funds, but that he had never seen the money.

“I know if I lodged a cheque for that much, I would remember it,” he said.

“They were the fees that my legal team got and the money, I never saw it. I’m not trying to avoid any questions or be casual about a million euro but the money went to the lawyers.


“We all knew when tribunals are set up, they are going to be expensive, that’s the way they have been.”

He said it was not for him to say whether the costs involved in the inquiry represented good value for money for the taxpayer.

“Look – it would be wrong for me to really comment. I was the cause of this particular tribunal and people in glasshouses can’t throw stones,” he said.

“How can I be critical? It would be wrong of me to make a comment on something I played a role in creating. I certainly didn’t see any of the money.”

The legal bill was sent to the Department of the Taoiseach in late December of last year by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

It said the NTMA had just paid out €973,792 – including VAT – “in respect of settlements” in connection with tribunal.

An internal note from the department said because the transaction was of such a high value, it needed to be signed off by a senior official there.

“Please find attached copy of invoice for settlement made by the State Claims Agency (Legal Cost Unit) in relation to Moriarty Tribunal and Ben Dunne,” it said.


“The amount due for reimbursement is €973,792.09. Due to the high value on this transaction the purchase order will issue to [named official] for approval as head of corporate affairs.”

In a statement, the department said it continues to have administrative responsibility for funding of the tribunal.

It said: “Previously payments were processed by this department on instruction by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office. However, this process changed in 2016 and since this date settlements are processed and paid by the Legal Costs Unit [in the NTMA].

“Reimbursement is sought by the Legal Costs Unit from this Department once settlements have been made. For this reason, the records held by this department relate to the reimbursement paid to the Legal Costs Unit only.”