From top: Michael Lowry and Denis O’Brien in 1997; Anne-Marie McNally
As the IBRC commission of inquiry falters Michael Lowry seeks his legal costs for the Moriarty Tribunal.
Business as usual so.
Anne Marie McNally writes:
Where to begin? Another week another Siteserv/O’Brien/IBRC drama unfolds across our courts or our parliament-it’s almost becoming unusual for there to be a week without something connected to one of these issues rearing its opaque and shrouded head.
So apparently it has taken a Judge; and an Attorney General; and a Minister for Finance; and a stable of financial brains in the Department of Finance, the best part of five months to discover that there are significant, nay fatal, legal impediments to the Commission of inquiry that was established to inquire into the inner workings of IBRC and 37 transactions which attracted write-offs exceeding €10million.
Among those 37 transactions is the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien which involved a write-off of €119million. It’s worth noting that at the time of the sale, O’Brien was also a significant debtor of IBRC, owing them amounts in the hundreds of millions. It’s also worth noting that following its sale to O’Brien, Siteserv went on to win several of the lucrative Irish Water metering contracts.
That sale was not without its controversies – including the payment of €5million in cash to the shareholders of the beleaguered Siteserv and claims by other bidders that they had bid higher amounts for the company but had lost out to O’Brien’s acquisition vehicle, Millington Ltd.
But the sale may well have represented the best value for the Irish Citizen – the problem is we just don’t know if that’s the case or not. That was or is the point of the Commission but here we stand, five months after its establishment, with no answers but yet more questions.
The singular remit of the IBRC was to ensure the maximum return possible to Irish citizens for the distressed assets of the borrowers that had been bailed out with €35 billion of Irish citizen’s money. The remit of the Commission of Inquiry was to satisfy the public that the IBRC had delivered on the mandate given to it.
As it stands now, the public are unsure if the IBRC delivered on that mandate and they know the Commission didn’t deliver on its task.
Meanwhile, as the IBRC debacle raged in the media and on the floor of the Dáil on Tuesday, Michael Lowry TD took himself into the High Court to challenge the decision of the Moriarty Tribunal to only award him one third of his legal costs.
The same Michael Lowry TD which the Moriarty Tribunal said in its findings had failed to cooperate fully with it. It must be said that both Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien reject the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal – and in fact O’Brien rejects even the notion that it was a judicial process despite having been presided over by Justice Moriarty.
So yesterday Mr Lowry took himself into the High Court and argued that the Moriarty Tribunal was discriminating against him because it had only awarded him one third of his costs while it had awarded Charles Haughey 100% of his costs.
That same tribunal which found that payments made from Denis O’Brien to Michael Lowry were “Demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr Lowry.” (Those acts included the awarding of the 2nd mobile phone licence when Michael Lowry was Communications Minister to EsatTelecom, founded by Denis O’Brien).
Mr Lowry’s argument in the High Court seems to be that Haughey gave the tribunal even more of a run around than he himself did so it’s unfair that he should have fewer costs awarded to him than were awarded to Haughey. I trust his legal costs have left him some cash to invest in some decent moisturiser for his neck which appears to resemble the nether regions of a jockey.
It’s ironic – I’d use another word but for that infamous chill – that two of the main protagonists in one of the most controversial episodes in recent Irish memory, the Moriarty Tribunal, are front and centre in these latest episodes of mystery and brazenness.
Ireland is the best little country in the world in which to do business. No doubt.
Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally