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Thursday 24 August 2017

Tribunal's legal eagles tight-lipped over attacks

Presiding judge and counsel refuse to be drawn by 'intemperate' criticism

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

THE publication of the Moriarty tribunal report saw them come in for what Justice Minister Alan Shatter described as "unprecedented, intemperate and unacceptable" attacks.

But Mr Justice Michael Moriarty and senior counsel for the tribunal Jeremiah Healy are refusing to be drawn by the criticisms of former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry and businessman Denis O'Brien.

Last Tuesday, Mr Justice Moriarty responded in writing to a letter from the Sunday Independent, to indicate that he would not "engage in any ongoing dialogue relating to the report of the tribunal".

In comments through the tribunal's registrar, he said: "He [Mr Justice Moriarty] has asked me to indicate that beyond reading the first sentence [of the Sunday Independent's letter] to confirm the sender's identity, the remaining substance of the communication was not read."

Explaining this, the tribunal registrar added: "This was not by reason of any disregard or disrespect towards you or your newspaper, but because on a basis similar to remarks made last Friday by the Minister for Justice in his statement, it is simply not permissible or appropriate for him as a judge to engage in any ongoing dialogue relating to the tribunal report."

Mr Healy, meanwhile, responded to the Sunday Independent, in a text message last Wednesday.

While confirming that he had read our letter to him, Mr Healy declined to make any further comment, other than to say: "I am not in a position to respond as by the Bar Council's code of conduct, I am not at liberty to discuss the affairs of a client."

While Mr Justice Moriarty and Mr Healy's reluctance to enter into public debate is firmly grounded in the codes of conduct set down for members of the judiciary and the bar respectively, separately legal sources have told the Sunday Independent that it would be open to both men to sue either Mr O'Brien or RTE for defamation, arising from comments which the billionaire businessman made during an interview with broadcaster Pat Kenny on his radio show on the morning of March 25.

In the course of that exchange, Mr O'Brien even went as far as to suggest that the Moriarty Tribunal report had not been entirely written by Mr Justice Moriarty -- but that the judge may have been assisted by the tribunal's lawyer, Mr Healy.

"If you look at the language of the report, it's not Michael Moriarty's language. It's Jerry Healy's language.

"I don't believe that he wrote all of this report at all, and if you look stylistically at the report, and the language, it's not a judge's language," Mr O'Brien said.

Sunday Independent

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