Taoiseach held secret meeting about tribunal with Moriarty
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen held a secret meeting with the chairman of the under-fire payments-to-politicians tribunal last week.
Mr Cowen is to meet this afternoon with opposition party leaders to discuss a request by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty to produce two reports, amid widespread concern over the delays in the tribunal finishing its work.
Details of the meeting between Mr Cowen and the judge only emerged last night.
The pair met in Government Buildings last Thursday at the request of Mr Justice Moriarty. The acting secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach was also present.
But Mr Cowen never revealed he held the meeting, even when he was asked about the tribunal by the media last Friday.
"We are making no secret of it," Mr Cowen's spokesman said last night.
His coalition partners in the Green Party did not know of the meeting either. "We didn't know, but it's not a big deal and it will inform the discussion," a spokesman said.
Mr Cowen's spokesman said the Taoiseach did not ask in advance why Mr Justice Moriarty was seeking a meeting.
"The meeting covered resourcing of the tribunal. The Taoiseach made it clear to the judge that he would communicate the matters raised to the party leaders at their meeting," a spokesman said.
There is widespread exasperation within the Dail at the 13-year duration and the €39.5m cost of the tribunal and it has come under increasing pressure to publish its final report.
The embattled tribunal is considering retaining another senior counsel to stand in for John Coughlan, who has not been available recently because of a debilitating illness.
Mr Cowen is to meet this afternoon with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Green Party leader John Gormley and Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain to discuss a letter sent to them by Mr Justice Moriarty.
The judge wrote to Mr Cowen requesting the meeting on Friday, May 21, and the pair met on Thursday, May 27.
In the same period, Mr Justice Moriarty wrote to the clerk of the Dail on Tuesday, May 25, setting out his plan to write an interim report on the money trail to disgraced former minister Michael Lowry. His letter arrived on Wednesday, May 26, and a meeting between Mr Cowen and the opposition leaders was arranged for this week.
The judge was expected to publish one single report detailing the findings of his investigation into the awarding of the second mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone in 1995 when Mr Lowry, now an independent TD, was communications minister in the Rainbow Coalition.
But in his letter, Mr Justice Moriarty said he was considering preparing an interim report on the work of the tribunal.
He also revealed the work of his tribunal was "close to completion" and denied reports suggesting progress on the final report had "virtually stalled".