Saturday 20 July 2019

Legal bill from Nama dispute is €229,000 - and counting

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin

Gordon Deegan

The battle between two public agencies over Nama's refusal to release information has cost the taxpayer over €225,000 in legal fees with the bill to mount further.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has confirmed that the legal bill to the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI) from the legal wrangle totals €97,000.

This is in addition to Nama's €132,000 legal bill that was disclosed by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, last week.

However, the overall €229,000 bill is expected to rise further with Mr Howlin confirming to Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty in a written Dáil reply that "it is expected that additional fees will be incurred in the coming weeks".

Mr Howlin confirmed that the costs from the Nama case account for 36.4pc of the OCEI's €266,000 legal costs incurred since its inception. The OCEI's hefty legal bill for the case arose from Nama fighting the case all the way to the Supreme Court arising from a five-year-old request by journalist Gavin Sheridan to seek information from Nama under a freedom to environmental information statutory instrument known as an EIR (Environmental Information Regulations).

Nama refused Mr Sheridan's request - claiming that it didn't consider itself a public authority within the meaning of the regulations.

Mr Sheridan appealed the decision to the OCEI which found that it did consider Nama was a public authority.

Both parties' legal costs increased sharply after Nama appealed the decision to the High Court that dismissed Nama's appeal.

Nama subsequently appealed the High Court decision to the Supreme Court.

On June 22 last, the five-judge Supreme Court rejected Nama's argument that it is not a public authority subject to freedom of environmental requests where it determined that the agency was covered by the regulations.

Mr Sheridan yesterday expressed his disappointment once more at the costs associated with the case, pointing out that the public pays for the costs of both parties.

Nama's legal bill more than doubled from €2.79m in 2013 to €8.57m.

Irish Independent

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