Tuesday 21 November 2017

€650k judgment against Lowry over tribunal fees

Michael Lowry, Independent TD for Tipperary North, at Leinster House yesterday
Michael Lowry, Independent TD for Tipperary North, at Leinster House yesterday

Tim Healy

INDEPENDENT TD Michael Lowry has had a judgment for €650,000 entered against him over accountancy fees owed for work done relating to the Moriarty Tribunal.

Master of the High Court Edmund Honahan, who manages pre-trial matters, gave the judgment yesterday following an application on behalf of BBT Chartered Accountants, Torquay Road, Foxrock, Dublin.

Judgment by the Master is designed to minimise legal costs. The firm had sought €1.74m but Master Honohan only gave judgment for €650,000 plus VAT.

A hearing in relation to the rest of the money claimed by BBT will come before the Master again in the New Year.

The Master said he was of the view that he had jurisdiction to deal with the uncontested part of this case and would give judgment in favour of BBT in relation to that part.

He also refused to put a stay on entering the judgment against the former Communications Minister.

However, he did allow a stay on the execution until proceedings in relation to the rest of the alleged debt are finalised.

Counsel Aillil O'Reilly, for Mr Lowry, said he would appeal on the grounds that the Master lacked the jurisdiction to make the judgment order.

It was also argued that the order was made in circumstances where it was unfair.

Mr O'Reilly BL contended that if a stay was not put on the entry of the judgment it would cause harm to Mr Lowry and put him to considerable cost, inconvenience and embarrassment.

BBT Chartered Accountants' fees concern work carried out by it for Mr Lowry in relation to the Moriarty Tribunal.

Denis O'Connor, a partner in BBT, said in an affidavit that Mr Lowry had paid the firm for work done for him during the McCracken Tribunal.

A detailed breakdown of the hours worked, from 1998 to 2010 had been provided to Mr Lowry.

The firm also carried out consultancy work for Mr Lowry and the total owing was €2m but two payments of €104,504 and €156,314 had been made and the outstanding total was now €1.74m, he said.

Solicitors for Mr Lowry had this year conceded that a substantial sum of money was owing but did not quantify the fees. They also contended that the fees ought not to be recoverable until after the Moriarty Tribunal's decision on costs.

Mr O'Connor said there was no agreement to defer the payment of its fees.

Counsel for BBT, Andrew Fitzpatrick, said Mr Justice Michael Moriarty had this week issued a cost order in respect of Mr Lowry at the tribunal.

ACCOUNTANTS

Mr Lowry, counsel said, had at the "eleventh hour" sought an adjournment of the proceedings through an affidavit from his solicitor. The Tipperary North TD, he said, was "no stranger to the courts and legal costs" and could have put in his own affidavit.

Mr O'Reilly, for Mr Lowry, said this was a contested case and his side was seeking due process. The cause of the action dated back to the start of the McCracken Tribunal in 1997.

The Master was also told by lawyers for BBT that Mr Lowry had told a newspaper he was going to challenge Mr Justice Moriarty's costs order and an application for an adjournment was simply an attempt to delay their entitlement to judgment.

The Master said the personalities involved did not impact on his application of the principles.

Irish Independent

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