By Noel Dundon
Poll topping North Tipperary Deputy Michael Lowry has come out fighting in light of the potentially damaging Moriarty report published this week, which alleged that the former Minister for Transport, Communications and Energy assisted Denis O’Brien in his bid to secure a mobile phone contract for Esat Digifone. Deputy Lowry has described the report as being “factually wrong” and is preparing to challenge its veracity. Businessman Denis O’Brien also referred to the report as being “utterly flawed.”
The Tribunal, which has cost in excess of 150 million Euro, published it’s second and final report, and alleges that Deputy Lowry - the then Minister - 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 said he “totally rejects the tenure” of the Moriarty report. And, in a statement issued, Deputy Lowry let fly and questioned Mr Justice Moriarty and the “ the tribunal’s ability to form opinions which are not substantiated by evidence or fact”.
The Holycross man, who is out of the country at present, said, “For example, in relation to the license, it was not possible for me to interfere with the license process without the collusion of up to eighteen civil servants. It is preposterous of Moriarty to form an opinion in his report that all of the civil servants and the consultant, Michael Andersson, had effectively lied under oath. During the prolonged hearings into the license not one single witness gave evidence that I, in any way, interfered with the process or made any suggestion as to who should win the license. Furthermore, not one single witness gave evidence that I in any way undermined the application of any losing bidder,” Deputy Lowry said.
Describing it as “ludicrous” of Mr Justice Moriarty to state that the Government of the day was in any way misled or in any doubt as to the recommendation made by the Independent project team, Deputy Lowry added that the project team was comprised of senior civil servants from both the Department of Communications and the Department of Finance.
“Moriarty has given fourteen years working to prove a theory that the license was improperly granted. It beggars belief how he could ignore the extensive evidence given to the tribunal which clearly confirms that I did not in any way influence the decision of the Independent project team,” said the former Minister who suggested that the tribunals credibility was shattered because of Mr Moriarty’s approach to evidence during the private and public enquiry.
“This report is ultimately the opinion of the chairman and it has no basis in law. It is my intention to study the report in detail and in due course, to challenge its veracity,” Mr Lowry’s statement concluded.
The tribunal began its inquiry into the licence competition in 2002 after it discovered potential financial links between the former Minister for communications Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien - allegations which both parties have strenuously denied. The report was also damning of former Dunnes Stores Boss, Ben Dunne, with whom Michael Lowry Lowry has a number of business dealings - a charge which has been the subject of much comment in the national media since.