Sunday 18 February 2018

FG advised $50,000 payment did not come under 'terms of Moriarty'

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FINE Gael last night published the legal advice which said it did not have to disclose a $50,000 donation from Danish telephone company Telenor to the Moriarty Tribunal.

The party was advised that the payment did not come under the "the terms of reference of the Moriarty Tribunal" since it was a donation to FG rather than to Michael Lowry.

Telenor was a partner of Denis O'Brien's Esat Digifone, and the Moriarty Tribunal found the company donated the money to Fine Gael in 1995 at the request of Mr O'Brien. This was two months after the second mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat.

However, then leader John Bruton, upon learning of the donation, which arose from a dinner in New York in November 1995, insisted it was returned.

The 1998 advice from senior counsel James Nugent was previously published by Michael Noonan when he was Fine Gael leader in 2001. Explaining his advice at the time, Mr Nugent said: "Firstly, the payments were not made directly or indirectly to Michael Lowry."

He said that "notwithstanding the fact that Mr Lowry was a trustee at the time of the New York dinner", Fine Gael could not be considered to be a connected person to Mr Lowry under the 1995 Ethics in Public Office Act.

"Fine Gael is not a 'person' nor is it an 'individual' nor is it a 'body corporate'," Mr Nugent added. "Even if it were a body corporate it could not be said that one of the trustees of Fine Gael 'controls' that body corporate.

"I am of the opinion that the terms of reference of the Moriarty Tribunal do not encompass this particular payment."

Irish Independent

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