Saturday 29 April 2017

Maloney to boycott conference over presence of Denis O'Brien

economic forum

Maeve Dineen , Business Editor

THE long-running disagreement between telecoms mogul Denis O'Brien and his former business associate Barry Maloney erupted into the open again yesterday as Mr Maloney objected to his former friend attending the Global Irish Economic Forum which kicks off in Dublin today.

Mr Maloney said in letters to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore that he would be staying away from the two-day conference because Mr O'Brien was attending.

The two men gave different accounts to the Moriarty Tribunal about the events leading up to the award of the second mobile phone licence to their company Esat in the 1990s.

Mr O'Brien was the largest shareholder in Esat Telecom while Mr Maloney was chief executive.

Mr Maloney told the tribunal that Mr O'Brien had told him in Esat's offices that he had to make payments to Lowry.

Mr O'Brien told the tribunal that the comments were made during a jog in the Wicklow Mountains and were nothing more than a form of bragging and should not be taken seriously.

The tribunal concluded that the telecoms mogul, who is also the largest shareholder in this newspaper, had made payments to former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry. The two men took part in the first Global Forum in Farmleigh House two years ago but this was before the tribunal published its report which included lengthy sections on the award of the licence.

A spokeswoman for the Government said the Department of the Taoiseach, which is hosting the forum, had no comment.

Policies

Despite the dispute, Mr Gilmore is set to unveil a raft of new policies when he opens the forum this morning.

It is understood that he will announce some sort of system to recognise people who have helped the country through "sustained and distinguished service to Ireland or Irish communities abroad".

Mr Gilmore has yet to present the plan to the Cabinet but will be at pains to emphasise that it is not a back-door honours system although it will involve the formal recognition every year of individuals from a range of sectors.

He will also announce that the Government is establishing a register of international advocates within six specific sectors. These include: Foreign Direct Investment, the financial services sector, promotion of culture abroad, tourism, assisting Irish exporting, Irish companies and Ireland's international reputation.

While the forum has drawn criticism from some quarters for an alleged shortage of concrete proposals, Mr Gilmore is set to announce that it will become a biannual event. The Government will establish an advisory and implementation group, co-chaired by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The group will meet twice a year and will be tasked with implementing, where appropriate, the initiatives which might emerge from the forum.

Ambassadors

Members will also work with the country's ambassadors to keep Irish people living abroad informed of developments.

The forum also aims to create a strategic group of 1,000 young Irish professionals equipped with the business, culture and communication skills necessary to succeed in Asia within five years.

Irish Independent

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