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Sunday 28 May 2017

Gardai probe 'tapping' of Judge Moriarty's phone

Inquiry to see if personal landline was bugged week before report

Sam Smyth, Tom Brady and Aine Kerr

GARDAI are investigating if the Moriarty Tribunal judge's personal phone line was tapped just a week before his damning report was published.

The Irish Independent has learned that specialist detectives examined the landline phone in Mr Justice Michael Moriarty's office at Dublin Castle.

An investigation was ordered by the garda authorities after they received a report outlining tribunal concerns that a landline used by the tribunal judge had been compromised.

One line of inquiry being pursued is the possibility that Mr Justice Moriarty's most sensitive calls on his private phone line were monitored and recorded.

The garda investigation began in the days leading up to the publication of the report, but was shrouded in secrecy.

Detectives were still working on the phone probe all through last week.

But details of the investigation only emerged last night, amid ongoing fallout from the mammoth report into the circumstances surrounding the awarding of Ireland's second mobile phone licence in 1995.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night moved to defend his special adviser after his links to disgraced former minister Michael Lowry were highlighted over the weekend.

And Fine Gael faces another onslaught of questions in the Dail this week about the tribunal report.

Aside from the political fallout, the phone-tapping allegations only added to the growing intrigue.

Officers from the garda communications and technology unit were sent to Dublin Castle to check out the building complex used by the tribunal.

They carried out a comprehensive sweep of all telephone lines used by the judge and his staff and also checked out other equipment such as computer outlets.

But they found no evidence of any interference with the lines.

It is understood that the line was traced through a number of intermediary stages back to the telephone exchange after an incident on the phone in Mr Justice Moriarty's office first aroused suspicion.

Checks are to be made in the next few days on external phone access points to find out if attempts had been made there to bug calls.

The publication of the report last Tuesday surprised everyone involved at the tribunal through its 14 years, including the legal teams.

Mr Justice Moriarty decided not to follow the tradition of publishing tribunal reports by having them bound and printed. The 2,230-page report concluded that businessman Denis O'Brien passed money to former Communications Minister Michael Lowry, who was found to have helped secure the telecoms mogul a mobile phone licence 16 years ago.

The Taoiseach last night launched a staunch defence of his special adviser Mark Kennelly, who worked for Mr Lowry during the period examined in the tribunal findings.

Mr Kennelly worked for Mr Lowry from 1995 to 1996, during the period when the multibillion euro mobile phone licence was awarded.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Mr Kennelly's part during his time working for Mr Lowry.

But his recent appointment as a special adviser to the Taoiseach now leaves the party open to accusations it has failed to move on from past controversies.

"Mr Kennelly has been working for Fine Gael for the past 21 years. Only one brief period was spent with Michael Lowry," Mr Kenny said. "He (Mr Kennelly) denies all knowledge, role or involvement whatsoever in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence."



Dealings

Mr Kennelly is not mentioned in the Moriarty Tribunal report, having previously confirmed to the McCracken Tribunal he had no knowledge of the dealings between Mr Lowry and Mr O'Brien.

Mr Lowry also last night told the Irish Independent that Mr Kennelly had "absolutely nothing to do with the issues relating to the licence".

"I think it's a sad twist that anybody would infer that Mark Kennelly's career should be in any way tied into this episode," he said. "Mark Kennelly is a person of the highest integrity."

Mr Kennelly was unavailable for comment last night.

But with opposition parties preparing to grill Fine Gael on past donations and fundraisers, the appointment of Mr Kennelly has cast a light again on party links to Mr Lowry.

TDs are preparing for a special Dail debate this week on the Moriarty Tribunal report which opposition parties will use to try and embarrass the party.

Irish Independent

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