So this has arrived. A new book on the Moriarty Tribunal and Denis O’Brien. Looks like something else. A steal at €50…
From The Irish Times letters page on March 25, 2011 – three days after the publication of the Moriarty Tribunal.
The media frenzy and what it is generating reminds me of the movie Twelve Angry Men and the book To Kill a Mockingbird. The political and media piranhas have smelled their victims’ blood and in the low moral ground where they play out their pretensions, the actors in this dreary drama are set to play their pretentious parts!
At stake is one of life’s most important psychological and emotional conditions: reputations.
In Twelve Angry Men, the so-called “evidence” was hearsay, innuendo and prejudicial malicious gossip. It took one man’s love of justice to convince his biased peers of the accuseds’ innocence.
After the tribunal’s 14 years of forensic foraging and a bill of approximately €250,000,000, Denis O’Brien has admirably stated his constitutional right under Article 40 to a good name.
We shall soon all witness how much as a nation we love justice or gossip! Having lived here most of my life I won’t hold my breath.
Businessman Denis O’Brien has lost an appeal against a 2011 High Court decision dismissing his claim the Moriarty Tribunal had incorrectly restricted cross-examination of a key witness at its public hearings.
A five-judge Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal in which he claimed there was a breach of fair procedures by sole tribunal member, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, to limit both the amount of time and the extent of the questions his lawyers could ask Danish telecommunications expert, Professor Michael Andersen.
… Mr O’Brien had argued a declaration that fair procedures were not applied during part of the tribunal, which centred on payments to politicians Michael Lowry and Charles Haughey, would have an effect on the public view of the tribunal’s report.
If he got such a declaration from the Supreme Court, he could also consider moving to quash certain parts of the report and this could also have consequences for the issue of the tribunal’s costs, he claimed.
The tribunal had opposed the appeal arguing the matter is now moot as its report has been published and there has been no challenge by Mr O’Brien to its contents.
Denis O’Brien and acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a Broadband Commission Meeting in Dublin on March 23, 2014
You may recall how the Moriarty Tribunal was published five years ago, on March 22, 2011.
During the delivery of a statement on the tribunal to the Dáil on March 29, 2011, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:
I welcome equally the tribunal’s recommendations. In many ways, the recommendations reflect the vital reform plans of this Government. This is a serious report that merits a serious response. Previous tribunals elicited thousands of words, but pitiful inaction on the part of those who then sat on this side of the House. The new Government breaks from that precedent and will act definitively and decisively.
“…To recreate political virtue, rebuild public trust and restore our reputation, it is no longer sufficient to do what is correct. To achieve even a fraction of that, we must do what is right.
“While what is correct starts in legal opinions and rules and legislation, what is right starts here in the human heart, in our conscience, in respect for our neighbour, and in the values that define who we are and what we want to be. If this is how we try to live our lives, this is how we should practise our politics. I speak for the entire Government when I say this is what will inspire and drive our tenure in office.
“In the programme for Government, which was published by the new Government and endorsed by this House prior to the publication of the Moriarty tribunal’s report, we set out proposals for the most comprehensive programme of political reform since the 1930s.
“We believe politics must be about service to the public, and not to provide financial gain for politicians or anyone else. We have already kept our promise to reduce the salaries of members of the Government and to reform the arrangements in regard to ministerial transport.”
Further to this, tonight Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy says:
“During that speech given by Enda Kenny he declared that Fine Gael’s response would be ‘swift and appropriate.’ and he went on to say that it was ‘a serious report which merits a serious response.’ Yet, here we are, five years later and we are yet to see any meaningful action on the findings of the Tribunal.”
“Ironically, in that speech in March 2011 the Taoiseach criticised other parties because in his words ‘other tribunals had elicited thousands of words but pitiful inaction.’ I would question what is different in how Fine Gael have handled the findings of Moriarty?”
“The Social Democrats are urging all parties to acknowledge the need for urgent and serious action if we are to have any hope of restoring public confidence to Irish politics. Five years ago Enda Kenny declared this as a stated aim yet we have yet to see it materialise.”
You may recall our post from last night showing that the Office of the Taoiseach paid €635,912.41 to Kevin O’Higgins Solicitors for payment of third party costs in respect of Fine Gael during the Moriarty Tribunal.
Kevin O’Higgins was Fine Gael’s solicitor in the 1990s and during the Moriarty Tribunal.
The Moriarty report [Chapter 3 in Part II of Volume 1] deals with a donation of $50,000 by the Norwegian telecommunication company to Fine Gael for a New York fundraiser in 1996.
Telenor’s donation was made on behalf of Denis O’Brien’s Esat.
The tribunal found Mr O’Brien instigated the payment two months after Esat won the single largest procurement award in the history of the State.
Moriarty criticised Fine Gael for not disclosing the clandestine nature of this payment to the Moriarty Tribunal, saying it was designed to be concealed.
During the tribunal, Jim Miley – now the head of The Gathering – who was general secretary of the party at the time of the mobile phone licence procurement, told the tribunal that Fine Gael were advised not to disclose details of the $50,000 as it was seen as ‘not relevant’. He also agreed that to do so would have had ‘disastrous political consequences’.
The following is a transcript, from the Moriarty Tribunal on June 13, 2001, in which Jerry Healy SC, for the State, questioned Mr Miley about a file note written by Kevin O’Higgins.
The note detailed Mr Miley and Mr O’Higgins’ concerns for Fine Gael’s involvement in the Moriarty Tribunal.
Jerry Healy: ‘The file note of the 6th March refers to a meeting in Mount Street with you, and it says, “I [Kevin O’Higgins] attended a meeting in Mount Street with Jim Miley to consider in further detail this matter of much confidentiality. At a Trustees meeting the previous evening the Trustees had requested of Jim that he require me to indicate whether or not the matter as disclosed should be referred to the Moriarty Tribunal. We talked the matter through and it is a very difficult question to answer. Jim felt that reference of that matter to Moriarty would have disastrous political consequences and it will ultimately be a matter on which he will have to talk to the Party leader. We talked further on the matter on this morning, 6th March, and he shall talk with John Bruton further. In addition, we spoke last night about the Telenor situation and the fact that their solicitor, Kevin O’Brien, had requested of me further assurances that the monies came directly from the David Austin account to Fine Gael and not through any intermediate account in which Mr. Lowry could have had an involvement. From discussions with Jim last night, the line we are to take is that we should not be messenger boys for Telenor in this matter and that they should make direct contact with David Austin and seek any such assurances such as they wish. Jim feels that there may be an element of Telenor trying to set us up in the knowledge of certain other information, and we don’t want to be made hostages to fortune. I just pointed out that although it is clearly in their interest that they don’t have to refer the matter to Moriarty, similarly we want to give them little opportunity of feeling that they have to do so.I spoke with Kevin O’Brien solicitor this morning and advised them of the situation. I understand that the Chief Executive of Telenor had been dealing directly with David Austin on this matter, so that it wouldn’t have been the first time that they would have had such contact.” Now, at this point there was still there were three matters, as far as I can see, under discussion. Firstly, there was the question posed by Telenor, the answer to which would determine whether they would feel obliged to refer certain matters to this Tribunal. Secondly, there was the political dimension mentioned by you that referring the matter to the Tribunal would have disastrous political consequences. And thirdly, there was the question of whether, in fact, between the money leaving Telenor and ending up in Fine Gael, it had gone into an account with which Mr. Lowry could have had an involvement, isn’t that right?
Mr Miley: (Nods head.)
Healy: “You were concerned with what you described as the disastrous political consequences. I take it the notion that Fine Gael would have been involved in some matter concerning fundraising that might or couldpossibly be construed as being improper, would that be right?”
Mr Miley: “Well, obviously this is the Party solicitor’s words, not mine, but I am presuming he captured the tone of what I was saying. I suppose what it would reflect is the general view that, amongst anyone, political party, politician, or indeed any individual, that an appearance at a Tribunal is not probably on the top of one’s wish list. So it was probably in that context it was raised. There was I mean, this issue was dealt with fully. I subsequently discussed it with the Party Leader. It was raised at a meeting of the Party Trustees, and it was decided very clearly that we would seek senior counsel advice on this, which we received and which advised in a particular way that it wasn’t relevant to the Tribunal.”
THE MORIARTY tribunal has awarded costs to the estate of the late Charles Haughey. The size of the costs sought is expected to be in the region of €4-€5 million, according to informed sources.
The former taoiseach, who died in June 2006, was the subject of the first of the tribunal’s two reports, published in December 2006. The tribunal investigated payments to Mr Haughey during his years as taoiseach and whether he had sought to do favours for those who made payments to him.
It found that he took payments of €11.56 million between 1979 and 1996, and granted favours in return. It said the scale and secretive nature of the payments “can only be said to have devalued the quality of a modern democracy”.