Monday 9 December 2019

Moriarty goes on attack

Tribunal judge hits back at O'Brien's accusation of being 'totally biased'

Sam Smyth

MR Justice Michael Moriarty launched a counter-attack against his accusers yesterday and reprimanded Denis O'Brien and the businessman's public relations adviser.

The chairman of the tribunal investigating payments to politicians named Mr O'Brien's PR consultant James Morrissey in the public hearing.

Mr Justice Moriarty also revealed that Mr O'Brien had accused him of conducting the tribunal in a "totally biased" manner, adding it had "really reached a new low in Irish judicial history". Mr Justice Moriarty said the attack on his handling of the tribunal was contained in a personal letter written to him by Mr O'Brien.

"I am not going to be distracted by the prevalence of spin, and other controversies," said Mr Justice Moriarty. "That would not be welcomed by the courts." The chairman referred to Mr Morrissey in the context of Mr O'Brien's public relations campaign and said he was "bemused" by some of the remarks about the tribunal. "I am bemused by remarks that the tribunal was seeking to cobble together a report to condemn people on flimsy evidence," said Mr Justice Moriarty.

"I have been a judge for just a few weeks short of 23 years," he said, "and in that period handled cases, civil and criminal, on evidence, not hearsay."


Mr Justice Moriarty said his second report would be based on evidence he had assessed.

"Not to do so would be a major injustice," he said.

The chairman said that in his time as a judge he hoped he was humble enough to correct any error he had made and that two witnesses would address important matters later.

After lunch, counsel for the tribunal apologised for not circulating documents earlier relating to witnesses scheduled to appear.

Following the apology, Mr O'Brien's legal team told the chairman that none of them had been aware of the letter that Mr O'Brien had written to him last year. It was an extraordinary day at the tribunal, which has been running for almost 13 years, and the chairman appears anxious to make a speedy delivery of his final report. Mr Justice Moriarty made it clear that he would be spelling out the reasons for the delays in his second report.

Denis McFadden, a barrister who advises the Attorney General, gave evidence to support advice given by senior counsel Richard Nesbitt in 1996.

Mr Nesbitt advised that a change of ownership to include Dermot Desmond's IIU company as investors would not affect the legality of the licensing process. Counsel for the tribunal described Mr Nesbitt's evidence last year as "not credible"

The tribunal continues.

Irish Independent

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