Ex-minister challenges Moriarty Tribunal’s legal costs award as judicial review opens

Michael Lowry

Former Irish communications minister Michael Lowry is challenging the Moriarty Tribunal’s decision to award him only one-third of his legal costs over the course of the inquiry’s 14-year period by means of judicial review, the Irish Independent reports.

Mr Lowry said that he was discriminated against compared to the other subject of the inquiry, the late former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, who received 100 per cent of his costs.

He said his total bill will run into millions of euros since he had to engage with the tribunal continually over its 14 year tenure.

The claims were made in the opening of the Tipperary North TD’sHigh Court judicial review application regarding the decision in October 2013 of the tribunal to award him a mere third of his legal costs after it determined he failed to fully co-operate with it.

Counsel for Mr Lowry, Niamh Hyland SC, said both he and Mr Haughey were the two subjects of the tribunal which was established in 1997 to investigate whether the pair received payments in public office in circumstances that could lead to inferences the payments related to their respective offices.

The tribunal found that Mr Lowry, during his tenure in office, conferred benefit on businessman Denis O’Brien, who had made payments to him.

But it was not found that Mr O’Brien benefited from making those payments and Mr Lowry rejected the findings.

Mr Haughey, on the other hand, was found to have obtained benefit of €11 million between 1979 and 1996.

In 1998 this was 171 times his salary according to counsel.

One Supreme Court judge said these findings were “sterile” because they had no legal effect, meaning there could be no criminal consequences.

The decision of the tribunal to award only a third of Mr Lowry’s cost was, according to Ms Hyland, disproportionate in light of the level of co-operation he provided it.

Further, he disclosed 31 bank accounts to the tribunal over nine years and unlike his Mr Haughey and Mr O’Brien, he did not bring any legal challenge against it.

But the tribunal said Mr Lowry did not identify one bank account on the Isle of Man and also provided falsified documents – allegations denied by Ms Hyland.

The case continues.

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