Saturday 7 December 2019

Judge condemns Lowry’s ‘litany of falsification’ at Moriarty Tribunal

TD plans 'vigorous' challenge to costs ruling in Court of Appeal

Michael Lowry at the Four Courts during a High Court hearing .Pic: Courts Collins
Michael Lowry at the Four Courts during a High Court hearing .Pic: Courts Collins
Mr Justice John Hedigan dismissed on all grounds Michael Lowry’s challenge to a decision of the Moriarty Tribunal to only award a third of his legal costs .Picture Collins, Dublin, Colin Keegan.

Tim Healy

Independent TD Michael Lowry engaged in a litany of deception - including the falsification of a solicitor's files - in his failure to co-operate with the Moriarty Tribunal, a High Court judge said.

Mr Justice John Hedigan made the comment when he dismissed on all grounds Mr Lowry's challenge to a decision of that tribunal to only award him one-third of his legal costs, a bill he says will run into millions.

The tribunal had found the Tipperary North TD concealed certain dealings from the tribunal, as well as findings of perjury and bribery of a potential witness to support false evidence, the judge said.

Mr Lowry said his lawyers are already preparing an appeal of the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal.

In a statement, he said: "No matter what way the court decided today, this case is one that was always going to be brought by either side to the highest level for final decision and determination.

"I have never accepted the findings issued by the Moriarty Tribunal as they were not grounded on any evidence or facts presented throughout the length of its sittings.

"It is very concerning that the judgment today erroneously claims that the tribunal had made a finding that I had been engaged in bribery and perjury. The tribunal never made and could not have made any such finding and it is a matter of the gravest concern that such a damaging claim has been made ... This is an issue which will be subject to a vigorous challenge in the appellate court," he added.

The tribunal was set up in 1997 to investigate payments to Mr Lowry, a former Fine Gael Communications Minister, and the late former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

As a result of Mr Lowry's conduct, the tribunal was frustrated and misled and its work was protracted significantly, Mr Justice Hedigan said yesterday.

The tribunal's findings were "a litany of falsification and deception by Mr Lowry, including the alteration of a solicitor's files in order to conceal certain of his dealings from the tribunal".

In light of its findings, the tribunal's rationale for allowing him only one-third of his costs was based on the general ruling criteria of false and misleading information and time lost as a result, he said.

It was also based on the centrality of Mr Lowry in the areas in which he failed to co-operate and the fact that such co-operation could not be reduced to a mathematical formula, he said.

The tribunal found the non- co-operation related to various aspects of the so-called "money trail" rather than in relation to what was called the "GSM module" - an area related to the awarding of the country's first mobile phone licence by Mr Lowry when he was communications minister.

The tribunal considered the falsification and concealment went to the very core of its enquiries, the judge said. It considered the falsification of a solicitor's files prior to providing them to the tribunal was "conduct of the most reprehensible nature".

The tribunal "might well have withheld all of Mr Lowry's costs" and might even have had a basis for ordering him to pay some of its costs, the judge said.

He found the tribunal was fair and proportionate in deciding to only award him one-third, he said.

In relation to Mr Lowry's claim that he was discriminated against, compared with Mr Haughey, who was awarded all his costs, Mr Justice Hedigan also rejected his arguments.

Mr Lowry had argued Mr Haughey had got his costs on the basis of what seemed equitable with no formulation as to how they could be determined. It was argued the conduct of Mr Haughey was found by the tribunal to be the same as that of Mr Lowry.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the tribunal had argued the two men's cases were not the same. Mr Haughey did not volunteer information in relation to payments to him and "feigned ignorance" of other matters. "He did not however deliberately mislead the tribunal whereas Mr Lowry did," the judge said.

In his view, the approach in relation to the two men constituted a reasonable rationale for its decision, he said.

The tribunal was entitled to find they were not like situations.

Irish Independent

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