A Faithful Retainer

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KevinHiggsYou 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.

It concluded:

Moriarty
payment1 payment2

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.”

Moriarty Tribunal transcript (June 13, 2001)

Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland

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