Friday 17 January 2020

Denis O'Brien and Michael Lowry named in case for legal costs

PHILIP RYAN

Former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry and billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien could be held responsible for legal costs arising from the case being taken by failed bidders in the 1995 mobile phone licence competition.

The issue of who will pay for what is expected to be lengthy litigation was mentioned in the Supreme Court this week when council for the State, John O'Donnell SC, indicated the possibility of serving notices of contribution and indemnity against other parties.

This is a legal procedure where a party in a case says any costs arising from it losing the case should be borne by one or more of its co-defendants.

Both Mr Lowry and Mr O'Brien were subject to widespread criticism following the outcome of the Moriarty tribunal, which found Mr Lowry interfered in the licence competition to the benefit of the winning bid., Mr O'Brien's Esat Digifone.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the State should pay the legal fees incurred by the mobile phone consortiums that resisted the State's attempt to halt their action, alleging the awarding of the licence was corrupt.

The cases were taken in 2001 by businessmen Tony Boyle and Michael McGinley acting on behalf of Persona and former Libertas leader, Declan Ganley, of the Comcast consortium.

The State previously secured a High Court order stopping the cases on the grounds of inordinate and inexcusable delay but the companies appealed to the Supreme Court saying they could not take a case before the conclusion of the Moriarty tribunal.

Despite the lapse of time since the awarding of the licence, the Supreme Court paved the way for Persona and Libertas to pursue their action against the State's awarding of the licence.

Persona's case is against the Minister for Enterprise, Ireland and the Attorney General. The Comcast case is against the Minister for Enterprise, Esat Telecom, Mr Lowry, Mr O'Brien, Ireland and the Attorney General.

Speaking to the Irish Times on Friday, Mr Lowry dismissed the suggestion that he may incur the costs as "utter rubbish and nonsense" and said that he was acting as a government minister at the time and did not make the final decision on the awarding of the licence.

"I can't see how the State could shift the emphasis to me or to anybody else," he said.

Mr Boyle told the Irish Times he was "astonished" the State was defending the case following the Moriarty tribunal and pointed out that Taoiseach Enda Kenny had accepted the findings.

Sunday Independent

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