Howlin backs call on O'Brien contact


A SECOND Cabinet Minister has backed calls for the Government to review its contact with businessman Denis O’Brien.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin agreed “there should be a consequence” for people, well-known or otherwise, “against whom adverse findings are adduced by a tribunal of inquiry”.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton told the Dáil on Wednesday that the Government should review its interaction with Mr O’Brien. She said there had been “considerable public and political unease about the fact that Mr O’Brien has continued to pop up at various public events, most recently at the New York Stock Exchange”, in reference to a photograph in which he and the Taoiseach featured.

Adverse findings were made in the Moriarty tribunal report about the way in which Mr O’Brien’s Esat Digifone company had secured the State’s second mobile phone licence in 1995.

Mr Howlin said “we all have to make personal decisions and the Government has to make its decisions in relation to any individual against whom adverse findings are made by a tribunal established by this House”.

He added that we had seen “the glad-handing of the former leader of Fianna Fáil at a party conference. We’ll see who now shuns him.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it seemed the Taoiseach “takes an entirely different view, beaming as he was from a photograph with the same individual”.

Mr Howlin said “the Taoiseach was invited – he didn’t issue invitations – to a particular function . . . None of us can control the people who are photographed with us.”

Pressed about the invitation to Mr O’Brien to the economic global forum in October, the Minister said “the invitations that went out replicated those who were invited to the first forum”.

Ms McDonald said the Coalition “seems . . . maybe compromised about its position on genuine consequences and genuine reform”.