Friday 9 December 2016

Judge Moriarty rounds on his critics following tribunal attacks

Sam Smyth

Published 24/04/2010 | 05:00

THE chairman of the payments-to-politicians tribunal has launched a counter-offensive against sustained attacks on his integrity as his inquiry comes to a defining moment.

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In what he described as an "unprecedented statement", Mr Justice Michael Moriarty responded to criticism of his tribunal, although he didn't identify his critics.

Disgraced former minister Michael Lowry and billionaire telecom's tycoon Denis O'Brien have each separately slated the tribunal and both expect to be criticised in its findings.

Mr Moriarty said none of the sustained criticisms of him would deflect him from the "impartial discharge of my remit to the best of my ability in accordance with the oath of office I took when I was appointed a judge".

Inhibit

"I wish to make it clear that none of these criticisms will interfere with the impartial discharge of my remit; nor will they inhibit me from reporting, without fear or favour."

The chairman was responding to criticism after he admitted making significant errors last month in the tribunal's dealings with legal advice from the Attorney General's office.

Mr Moriarty said he had made mistakes about the legal advice in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence won by Mr O'Brien's company Esat Digifone.

But the chairman is clearly frustrated that because of his position as a High Court judge and a tribunal chairman, he does not have the same freedom of debate as his adversaries.

"For the absolute avoidance of doubt, it is not permissible for me," he said, "and it is no part of my purpose, to engage in media debate with any person in relation to any of the criticism which has been made of the good faith of the tribunal, and of member of the tribunal legal team."

Yet the chairman insisted that none of the criticisms of him or the tribunal would interfere with his impartiality. "They will not deflect me from ensuring that fair procedures are adhered to in bringing my work to a conclusion."

The final report will be based solely on evidence heard at public sittings of the tribunal, said Mr Justice Moriarty. "And not on unsworn speculation or allegation, from whatever source."

Frustrated

Sources close to the tribunal told the Irish Independent that the legal team was frustrated and disappointed by recent coverage in an Irish broadsheet that was heavily influenced by public relations consultants.

And that journalist had not properly understood the real significance of the Danish consultant Michael Anderson's decision to give evidence after declining for many years.

Other sources say that preliminary findings delivered nearly 18 months ago remain largely unaffected by the chairman's recent admission of "significant errors".

It is understood that civil servants are heavily criticised in the provisional findings and sources say the Government and their advisors in the public service are determined to discredit the tribunal's final report.

Irish Independent

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