Varadkar warns Dáil committee of tribunal and inquiry costs

Moriarty, Siteserv and ‘Project Eagle’ contribute to department total bill of €110m-plus

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has clashed with Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty after the Donegal TD questioned the Taoiseach over links to Denis O'Brien and Michael Lowry TD. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Tribunals and inquiries answerable to the Department of the Taoiseach will cost more than €110 million when the final bills are paid, Leo Varadkar has told a Dáil committee.

The bulk of the costs will be made up by the Moriarty tribunal, which reported in 2011 on its inquiries into the finances of former taoiseach Charles Haughey and former Fine Gael minister for communications Michael Lowry, who is now an independent TD.

The Taoiseach said costs to date for Moriarty have reached €65 million. He added that “our best estimate, and it is only an estimate, is that it will top out at €75 million, depending on costs awards”.

Two further inquiries under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach will cost a further €40 million, Mr Varadkar indicated.

The Commission of Inquiry into the sale of Siteserv by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to a company owned by businessman Denis O’Brien has cost €7 million to date.

‘Interim report’

“But we anticipate the spend could end up at €30 million,” Mr Varadkar said. “It is difficult to say when that will end ... I have sought an interim report but I have not received that yet.”

The Commission of Inquiry into “Project Eagle”, the sale of Northern Ireland loans owned by Nama to the US company Cerberus, has cost €2 million to date, and is expected to cost €10 million, he added.

The inquiries listed by Mr Varadkar are expected, in total, to cost €115 million.

Mr Varadkar made the comments as he faced questioning by TDs at the Oireachtas committee which oversees his department and the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure on Thursday.

He said that politicians should bear in mind the cost of tribunals and inquiries “because there isn’t a week that goes by that the Opposition, TDs or party leaders, don’t call for an inquiry or a tribunal or whatever”.

“And while they may be merited, we must bear in mind the time that they take, they often don’t give people the answers they want and they cost the taxpayer a lot of money,” he said.

Links questioned

Mr Varadkar clashed with Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty who questioned the Taoiseach’s links to Mr O’Brien and criticised the Government’s reliance on the support of Mr Lowry, who has previously been convicted of tax offences.

The Taoiseach said he had “bumped into Denis O’Brien in a corridor in Davos a year ago”.

Asked if he was concerned that his Government depended on Mr Lowry’s support, Mr Varadkar replied: “Does it concern you that you have people on your benches with very serious criminal convictions?”

“I’m asking the questions,” Mr Doherty replied.

Mr Varadkar then repeated his question.

The Taoiseach also said there was “no certainty” the Government’s plan to provide high-speed fibre broadband to 500,000 rural homes would go ahead.

He told Mr Doherty “There’s no certainty on any project until the contract is signed.”