By Noel Dundon
North Tipperary Deputy Michael Lowry has claimed that the legacy of the thirteen year long Moriarty Tribunal is now in tatters, following a judgement made in the Supreme Court by Mr Justice Hardiman when he emphatically affirmed that the findings of a Tribunal of Inquiry have no evidential value whatsoever.
Independent Deputy Lowry battled with the Tribunal over almost a decade and half arising out of allegations that the granting of the mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone was conducted in an improper manner. The Tribunal costs topped the 150 million Euro and was described by Deputy Lowry as ‘factually wrong’ while one of the other principle witnesses, Mr Denis O’Brien, referred to it as ‘utterly flawed’ when it was published back in March.
The Tribunal Report alleged that Deputy Lowry - the then Minister for Transport Communications and Energy - gave “substantive information to Denis O’Brien, of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence”. The report also stated that Deputy Lowry displayed “an appreciable interest in the license competition,” had “irregular interactions with interested parties at its most sensitive stages, sought and received substantive information on emerging trends (and) made his preference as between the leading candidates known”.
However, the Independent TD, who scooped a whopping 14,104 first preference votes in the General Election, totally rejected the tenure of the Moriarty report. And he also let fly and questioned Mr Justice Moriarty and the “ the tribunal’s ability to form opinions which are not substantiated by evidence or fact”.
Deputy Lowry’s sentiments have now been endorsed by Mr Justice Hardiman who said that the duration of some modern tribunals “is nothing less than appalling”. In what seemed to be a clear reference to the Moriarty Tribunal, the Supreme Court Judge commented that “a recent tribunal has ended after about 13 years and another seems likely to exceed even this enormous total. As a result, the expense of participating in a tribunal of inquiry is nothing less than grotesque, beyond the means even of individuals or corporations who would normally be considered rich”.
Deputy Lowry told The Tipperary Star that he has seen this injustice first hand. “I was severely disadvantaged financially in attempting to defend myself against the tribunal’s multi-millionaire barristers while I received no financial support over a 13 year period.” The Supreme Court Judge also noted that “Tribunals have now taken to sitting for very long periods in private so that the material which they gather is normally known only to themselves except on those all too frequent occasions when portions of the materials are leaked. This accumulation of material in secret has, on a number of occasions, created major injustice where material, damaging to the account of an accusing witness, has been quite deliberately withheld from the parties whom he accuses”.
Deputy Lowry responded to this judgment saying “I was highly critical of the Moriarty Tribunal from the outset but became particularly opposed to it when it commenced to selectively leak information and abandoned any pretence of makings its findings based upon properly obtained evidence. While sill wearing a cloak of judicial correctness and requiring all usual judicial niceties, the Tribunal proceeded to damn me in extreme terms based – not on evidence – but on opinion only. Despite obscene expense and procrastination, the Moriarty Tribunal was allowed to continue unchecked. This process was equivalent to a horrendous and medieval Star Chambers and I am glad to see such forthright criticism of Tribunal procedures in general coming from the Supreme Court.
“The Tribunal also had its cheerleaders among those in the media connected to failed bidders for the Mobile Phone License. I have already rejected its flawed findings and, now that the Supreme Court has unequivocally rendered its findings as legally sterile and “devoid of legal consequences”, it is my hope that no Citizen of this Country will ever again be subjected to such an ordeal again,” Deputy Lowry said.