Thursday 27 April 2017

Planning Tribunal findings against JMSE chairman quashed

Joseph Murphy Jnr, pictured leaving the Four Courts after an apology was read out to him in the High Court.Pic: Collins Courts
Joseph Murphy Jnr, pictured leaving the Four Courts after an apology was read out to him in the High Court.Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

THE High Court has quashed, on consent, findings of the planning tribunal against the chairman of Joseph Murphy Structural Engineering (JMSE).

The case arose after Joseph Murphy junior took proceedings against the tribunal over adverse findings against him in the tribunal's second and third interim reports.

Today, the tribunal acknowledged some material had not been disclosed to Mr Murphy, his late father Joseph Murphy senior and others associated with Murphy interests. 

This was unlawful and breached Mr Murphy's constitutional rights, it said.  

The material in question would have enabled the Murphys to conduct an effective and comprehensive cross-examination of the tribunal's main witness, the late James Gogarty.

Following the court's order, Mr Murphy said he was delighted with the outcome. What the  tribunal had found was "far removed" from the values he and his later father had in business.

That was the reason he took the case. The tribunal was set up 20 years ago and made findings in 2002 which had "huge consequences" for his business.

Asked if he is to receive any damages as part of the case, he said no but he was happy with the result and he wanted to "get on with my life".

In a statement read to the court on behalf of the tribunal by John Finlay SC, it said the first module of the tribunal concerned allegations the Murphy father and son, and companies associated with Murphy interests, were party to the making of a corrupt payment to former TD and Minister Ray Burke. 

Subsequent modules concerned the making of a corrupt payment to former assistant Dublin city and county manager, the late George Redmond.

James Gogarty, a former senior executive with JMSE, a one time the market leader in steel structural erection in Ireland, was on many matters the only witness against the Murphy interests.

Any adverse findings against the Murphys therefore rested on the credibility between Mr Gogarty and the Murphy interests, the statement said.

To deal effectively with the question of credibility, it was essential as a matter of constitutional justice and fairness of procedure that the Murphy interests were in a position to conduct an effective and comprehensive cross-examination of Mr Gogarty.

A number of statements taken during the tribunal's private investigations were either not disclosed or only disclosed in redacted form and were subsequently the subject of findings in the tribunal's second and third interim reports.

The Supreme Court later described the relevance of the material as "obvious", the statement said.

In February last year, the tribunal furnished Mr Murphy with further material which had not been made available and which the tribunal said ought to have been disclosed.

The tribunal acknowledged the findings were made in circumstances which breached the Murphys' rights to fair procedures.

It also acknowledged the findings were unlawful and that they received "enormous publicity which has been extremely damaging to them".

It acknowledged the findings had a profound effect on Mr Murphy and severely damaged his reputation over a period of many years and caused him great personal distress. 

As a result, following submissions from Mr Murphy, the tribunal removed the relevant passages and findings from the second and third reports, and its website, and the revised reports were furnished to the Clerk of Dáil.

In consenting to the order quashing the findings, the tribunal agreed to pay Mr Murphy the costs of these proceedings and of costs incurred by him in examination of the new material provided to him.

A copy of the court order, and this statement, will be forward to the Clerk of the Dáil with a request that all reasonable steps be taken to bring these documents to the attention of members of both houses of the Oireachtas.  They will also be placed in the Dáil Eireann library.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who was also told Ireland and the Attorney General was consenting to a strike out of the case, granted the orders as sought.

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