Legal bid to oust McDowell
Lawyers object to his tribunal role citing 'conflict of interest'
Published 27/10/2010 | 05:00
A legal challenge to stop former Justice Minister and Attorney General Michael McDowell appearing for the Moriarty Tribunal will be launched in the High Court this morning.
The move to the Four Courts follows the surprise appearance of Mr McDowell at Dublin Castle yesterday when it emerged that he will question a key witness.
It also transpired that Mr McDowell is being paid less than other tribunal lawyers after a submission by former minister Michael Lowry suggested he was retained on huge fees.
Mr Lowry objected to Mr McDowell's appearance for the tribunal and suggested he was being paid a briefing fee of "€30,000 or €40,000 plus the tribunal senior counsel daily rate [€2,500 a day]".
However, the chairman, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, said Mr McDowell's fees are "radically distinguishable" from the terms suggested by Mr Lowry.
Danish consultant Michael Andersen will give evidence about the awarding of the second mobile phone licence in 1995 which was won by Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone.
The tribunal chairman said yesterday that Mr McDowell was retained solely to question Mr Andersen, who was a consultant for the Department of Communications in the awarding of the licence.
Mr Justice Moriarty added that the tribunal's entire legal team supported the appointment of Mr McDowell.
The chairman explained that he had decided to engage Mr McDowell because of "unwarranted slurs and imputations" on a member of his legal team by an affected party.
Jim O'Callaghan, for Mr O'Brien, told a hushed tribunal that the appointment of Mr McDowell was an "alarming and ill-advised development".
Mr O'Callaghan said that the former minister had "a whole series of conflicts of interest" arising from his involvement in public life.
Although he had only known for sure about Mr McDowell's appointment yesterday morning, Mr O'Callaghan had prepared a book listing 10 reasons why the former minister had a conflict of interest.
Mr Justice Moriarty said: "It was not one of the secrets of Fatima that Mr McDowell had been retained by the tribunal."
Earlier, former minister Michael Lowry told the tribunal that he had no legal representations because he could no longer afford it.
"It is my view that fair procedures and justice under the Constitution require that an interim payment be made by the tribunal so that I can discharge my professional fees and continue to be legally represented at this tribunal," he said.
"Mr chairman, over the past 13 years we have grown old together here in Dublin Castle, and I'm growing old and weary," he added.
The chairman said that because of legal precedents he could not order payment to Mr Lowry's lawyers.
Mr Justice Moriarty added that attempts to intimidate him or to stop a final report emerging would not prevail.
Mr Bill Shipsey, counsel for Dermot Desmond, also objected to Mr McDowell appearing for the tribunal citing a "perception of bias".
In August Mr Justice Moriarty told the Department of the Taoiseach that there was a "pressing need" for an additional solicitor -- and a senior barrister to replace Mr John Coughlan, who has been unwell.