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Thursday 22 March 2018

Lowry 'bypassed' ministers in decision-making process

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

CABINET ministers -- many of whom are back in government -- were bypassed by their former colleague Michael Lowry in the process of awarding a mobile phone licence, the Moriarty Tribunal found.

Six senior ministers in the current Fine Gael-Labour Government sat around the cabinet table in the Rainbow Coalition in the mid-1990s, when the second mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat Digifone.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ministers Michael Noonan, Ruairi Quinn, Brendan Howlin and Richard Bruton were all senior ministers in the Rainbow Government, while Pat Rabbitte was a super junior minister.

The report also found Mr Lowry tried to overreach then Taoiseach John Bruton, who may run for the presidency later this year, "by intimating that government should have no discretion in the matter".

Mr Bruton did not return calls last night. Mr Kenny said in the Dail the report needed further examination.

The report said Mr Lowry made his preferences known, "ultimately brought a guillotine down" on the process and "proceeded to bypass consideration by his cabinet colleagues and, thereby, not only influenced, but delivered, the result".

It also said Mr Lowry "deployed a rumour" that a prominent Fianna Fail politician would benefit if a rival consortium won. The report said he relayed this rumour to Mr Bruton to assert there was no room for "discretion" from his recommendation.

Mr Lowry "sought further to neutralise consideration by government" by saying Mr Quinn's brother was involved in a rival consortium. "It's an extensive report and the minister won't be making a comment until he has had time to consider its content," a spokesman for Education Minister Mr Quinn said.

Mr Lowry informed Mr Quinn, then Finance Minister, Mr Bruton, then Labour Tanaiste Dick Spring and Democratic Left leader Pronsias de Rossa of the recommendation to award the licence to Esat on October 25, 1995.

He called a press conference for an hour later, where he publicly announced the result. This is despite the fact the Cabinet should have officially determined the final decision.

Irish Independent

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