Lowry got €377,000 for legal costs racked up in court action against Moriarty tribunal

Payment came three years after the TD won his action against the tribunal’s decision to award him only one-third of his legal costs for participating in the inquiry

Former minister Michael Lowry: has received more than €377,000 from the State for legal cost. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Former minister Michael Lowry: has received more than €377,000 from the State for legal cost. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Former minister Michael Lowry has received more than €377,000 from the State for legal costs racked up in a successful court action against the Moriarty tribunal.

The payment in March came three years after the Independent TD won his Court of Appeal action against the tribunal’s decision to award him only one-third of his legal costs for participating in the inquiry.

In its 2011 final report the tribunal found that Mr Lowry “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone licence competition for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone when he was a Fine Gael minister.

Mr Lowry told The Irish Times on Thursday night that the question of his tribunal costs was separate to the March payment. Asked what sum he expected to receive for his tribunal costs, he said: “It will become evident in due course.”

In response to questions on recent tribunal costs, the Government said “one payment” was made to National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to date this year in respect of it.

It said €377,244.14 was paid to the State Claims Agency, which is part of the NTMA, to reimburse it for a settlement with Mr Lowry on March 2nd.

The money was included in legal costs totalling €492,187.19 that the tribunal incurred between February and June. In the same period the tribunal incurred €198,859 in administrative costs.

The Government provided no detail on the nature of the settlement. Asked to specify what costs were involved, Mr Lowry replied by text message to say it covered “just the Court of Appeal costs”.

The court sent the question of what the amount of the costs should be back to the tribunal for reconsideration.

In April the tribunal told The Irish Times that the application process for legal costs for appearing before the tribunal “has now concluded and orders issued”. It declined to comment on dealings with individuals.

Payments

The tribunal’s report into one of the most hotly contested licences ever issued by the State was published in March 2011. The inquiry was established in 1997 to examine payments to the late Charles Haughey and to Mr Lowry.

The 2011 report said it was “beyond doubt” that Mr Lowry, minister for communications in 1995 when Esat Digifone won the licence competition, imparted “substantive information” to Mr O’Brien, which was “of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence”.

Mr O’Brien rejected the tribunal’s report, saying at the time that it was based on “opinions” with no basis in evidence, fact and law. He insisted he never made any payment to Mr Lowry.

At the time Mr Lowry accused the tribunal of issuing a report that was “factually wrong and deliberately misleading”.