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TD says he cannot recall being asked about mobile bids

FINE Gael TD Phil Hogan yesterday insisted at the Moriarty Tribunal he had no recollection of a meeting in a Dublin restaurant where estate agent Mark FitzGerald said millionaire businessman Denis O'Brien asked about the second mobile phone competition.

The Carlow Kilkenny TD said he did not remember anything like the October 1995 meeting described by Mr FitzGerald. He added that he would have remembered meeting Mr O'Brien.

Mr Hogan was commenting on former Fine Gael trustee, Mr FitzGerald's account of a meeting at Lloyd's Brasserie near Leinster House in the month Esat Digifone was picked as the winner of the competition.

Mr FitzGerald has already told the tribunal how he went along to meet Mr O'Brien at the restaurant and was surprised to find Mr Hogan and the late Dublin TD Jim Mitchell there.

At the meeting, Denis O'Brien asked him if he had heard anything about the mobile phone competition.

Yesterday Mr Hogan said the meeting did not happen, or if it did he has no recollection of it.

"I certainly do not remember anything. I have no recollection whatsoever.

"I would have remembered meeting Mr O'Brien, I certainly would not have been in the habit of having coffee with Jim Mitchell," he commented.

Mr Hogan told the inquiry how in June 1995 he met Denis O'Brien for the first time at a fundraising lunch in the Wicklow constituency. He said he was Fine Gael Director of Elections at the time and there was a by-election in Wicklow. He said there was contact with Sarah Carey, whom he knew and who worked for Mr O'Brien.

Counsel for the tribunal, John Coughlan, said Ms Carey has informed the tribunal that it was against a certain background that an offer of financial assistance was made to Phil Hogan at the time of the Wicklow by-election in June 1995.

Mr Hogan said he met Denis O'Brien for the first time at the fundraising lunch in the Glen View Hotel and he thanked him for coming.

On that occasion £5,000 (?6,340) was contributed to the local organisation.

Asked if any representations had been made by him on behalf of Esat Digifone, Mr Hogan said categorically not, and he had never discussed the issue of the licence with Denis O'Brien.

Mr Hogan said all he knew about the licence was from the newspapers.

The TD also told the tribunal how he had met Mr O'Brien for lunch in 1996 in relation to his favouring a constituent for a job but the applicant was not successful.

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