Monday 23 April 2018

Mahon inquiry in row over judge costs

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

AN extraordinary row has erupted between the Dail's most powerful committee and the Mahon Tribunal over the cost of employing numerous judges to work on the long-running inquiry.

Solicitors from the tribunal have fired off a number of letters to the clerk of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) attacking it for criticising aspects of how the tribunal carried out its work -- and accusing it of "ignoring" key evidence.

A report on legal costs produced by the PAC said the tribunal should, after a period of time, have discharged two extra judges it took on in 2002.

The PAC's report found that, up until the end of 2010, the Mahon Tribunal cost €10m. The tribunal started out under one judge and another two were recruited as it progressed.

A 2004 proposal to allow the three judges to take up parallel hearings was not taken up by the tribunal and the PAC said the extra two should have been dismissed because of this.

The tribunal is claiming the release "of two of the three judges was not possible for both practical and legal reasons".

In a July 6 letter sent to Ted McEnery, clerk of the PAC, Susan Gilvarry, a solicitor acting for the tribunal, said it appeared that an explanation for why two judges were kept on "was ignored by the committee".

Ms Gilvarry said three judges were appointed by the Oireachtas in 2002 "for the duration of the work of the tribunal" and their numbers couldn't be reduced without legislation.

Although the legal report was carried out by the previous PAC, new chairman John McGuinness said the new committee added the tribunal's concerns as an appendix to the legal report -- but this didn't mean they agreed with it.

"I'm sure we'll be revisiting this when we look again at legal costs in September," he said.

Irish Independent

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