Business Irish

Monday 19 March 2018

Phone consortia get costs from State in Esat case

Tim Healy

TWO mobile phone consortia that successfully challenged the State's bid to halt their actions alleging fraud and corruption in how the country's second mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat Digifone have been awarded legal costs by the Supreme Court.

John O'Donnell SC, for the State, had urged no costs should have to be paid out until the final outcome of the consortia's actions, but their lawyers argued that could take some time and they were entitled to costs orders now.

The Supreme Court agreed and, giving its ruling yesterday, the Chief Justice Susan Denham said the court would apply the normal rule that costs be paid to the successful party and would also refuse a stay on that costs order.

Businessman Declan Ganley's Comcast International Holdings Incorporated and Persona Digital Telephony Ltd brought separate actions in 2001 challenging the licence award to Esat Digifone and claiming multi-million euro in damages.

Comcast's action is against the Minister for Public Enterprise, former minister Michael Lowry, Esat Telecom, Denis O'Brien, Ireland and the Attorney General, while Persona's is against the Minister for Public Enterprise, Ireland and the Attorney General.

Both actions allege fraud, conspiracy, deceit, corruption and misfeasance in public office in relation to the licence award.


The state parties in June 2007 secured High Court orders stopping the cases against them on grounds of inordinate and inexcusable delay.

A similar motion by Mr O'Brien to halt the action against him due to delay was "parked" pending the outcome of the consortia's appeals against that ruling.

Both consortia had argued their delay was justified on grounds they were awaiting the outcome of the 13-year Moriarty Tribunal investigation into the 1995 licence award.

A five-judge Supreme Court granted the consortia's appeals and, giving its reasons why last month, said the inordinate delay was excusable in the exceptional and unique circumstances of the cases.

The decisions to await the outcome of the Moriarty tribunal was understandable given the special circumstances of the cases, the nature of the claims of corruption and the alleged covert nature of the alleged wrongs, the Chief Justice said.

Irish Independent

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