Thursday 22 February 2018

Question remains as to why decision rushed through

It was at best cavalier, at worst reckless of the then government to allow itself to be bypassed so easily, writes Willie O'Dea

AMID the torrent of claim, counterclaim, accusation and denial generated by the Moriarty Tribunal, one fact emerges about which there is no dispute. At a cabinet meeting on March 2, 1995, the then Government took a decision on how the mobile phone licence was to be granted.

The decision was that the process should be conducted by the Department of Communications. The department would make a recommendation to the Government on who should get the licence. However, the final decision on the winner was reserved to the Government. That decision was ignored. The Cabinet never got to consider the matter. When one considers that this was one of the most important decisions -- if not the most important -- to be made by that Government, that is quite extraordinary. The two central questions are how that happened and why.

The how part is easy. Michael Lowry rang the then Taoiseach John Bruton and told him he wished to see himself and the other leaders of the coalition parties that made up the government, Dick Spring and Proinsias de Rossa. They met on the same day at 4pm in the afternoon. At that meeting, Mr Lowry persuaded the three party leaders and Ruairi Quinn, who was also present, that the decision on the licence had to be announced that very evening even though the Cabinet was meeting the next day and could have dealt with the matter then.

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