Thursday 19 October 2017

Lowry calls Moriarty Tribunal a 'legal farce'

Patricia McDonagh

INDEPENDENT TD Michael Lowry yesterday launched a blistering attack on the Moriarty Tribunal, describing it as a "quasi-judicial legal farce".

The Government-supporting TD heavily criticised the fees paid to tribunal lawyers over the lifetime of the inquiry, comparing it to the treatment of those on social welfare.

Mr Lowry said the Oireachtas had taken the decision to stand back from the investigation while it spiralled out of control. And he insisted Government officials had allowed millionaire tribunal barristers to become "untouchable".

The former Fine Gael communications minister is the key figure in the tribunal's 13-year investigation into payments to politicians.

It recently probed allegations Mr Lowry influenced the State's second mobile-phone licensing process to the advantage of Denis O'Brien's Esat Digiphone.

The tribunal has already cost the State €38.2m, but the final bill could be close to €100m when third-party costs are factored in.

Witnesses

Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday revealed two state witnesses had been called back by the tribunal, which was supposed to report in January.

He admitted no date had been set for the hearings and the publication date of the report was unknown

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Lowry queried how Mr Cowen could justify the cost of the investigation, which would place a multi-million euro burden on the State.

"I have 13 years of experience in dealing with this tribunal and have come to the opinion that this quasi-judicial legal farce has been out of control for years," he said.

"The Oireachtas has stood back from it and has allowed it to continue."

Mr Lowry argued an overpayment of €1m paid to two senior barristers at the tribunal should have been claimed back by the State.

"Were social welfare recipients involved, they would have been harassed and hounded to ensure the monies were repaid," he said.

Irish Independent

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