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Moriarty Tribunal will cost another €10m this year, despite taking place 20 years ago

The money is spent on third party legal fees.

Businessman Denis O Brien leaves the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin Castle in 2007.
Businessman Denis O Brien leaves the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin Castle in 2007.

Updated 1.15pm

THE MORIARTY TRIBUNAL kicked off in 1997 to look into the financial affairs of Charlie Haughey and Michael Lowry – and twenty years on, it continues to cost the State money.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Oireachtas Finance Committee yesterday the Moriarty Tribunal has cost €54.7 million to date.

This year, an additional €10 million for legal costs will be spent.

Officially called the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Payments to Politicians and Related Matters, it took 14 years to find that former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry had an “insidious and pervasive” influence over the awarding of Ireland’s second mobile phone licence in the 1990s to Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone company.

Lowry is currently still a sitting TD for Tipperary. He rejects the findings of the Tribunal, as does O’Brien.

Extra €10 million

“The monies here – the extra €10 million – is an increase of 122% [on last year's budgeted Tribunal costs], because of the Moriarty Tribunal and the expected third-party legal costs,” said Kenny.

Previous Tribunals Source: Leon Farrell

Breaking down the costs of the Moriarty Tribunal further, Kenny said €35.58 million had been spent on legal fees; €9.764 million had been spent on administration; €6.84 million was spent on third party costs; and €2.55 million was spent on other payments.

He said the 2017 budget is considerably higher than last year, as the €10 million bill is due for payment this year.

The Taoiseach also outlined the costs of other Tribunals to date:

  • Moriarty Tribunal - €54.742 million
  • Smithwick Tribunal - €19.4 million
  • Lindsay Tribunal - €46.677 million
  • Mahon Tribunal €119.771 million
  • Morris Tribunal €68.695 million

This week, the government approved the setting up of another Tribunal to investigate the alleged smear campaign against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Originally, it was proposed that a commission of investigation be carried out, a method of inquiry that has proved a lot more popular in recent years compared with tribunals as they are generally shorter and seen as more cost effective.

The Taoiseach said the cost of a commission of investigation would be far less than a full Tribunal of inquiry.

Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness asked the Taoiseach if there were any cost controls when a full inquiry is established.

“Is it open-ended?” asked McGuinness.

“Practically,” replied Kenny.

“There are no set controls on the costs for a public inquiry… because every witness is entitled to full legal representation,” said the Taoiseach.

The issue of costs was also raised by Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson, Jim O’Callaghan during the debate on the terms of reference of the newly established Tribunal.

oire Source: Oireachtas

He said the government needed to ensure ”the costs don’t run exorbitantly high”.

People appearing before the Tribunal should be told the State will only pay a certain amount towards legal fees, said O’Callaghan who added that those who want to pay out more should have to pay for it themselves.

“We do know the perils of going the Tribunal route but in this instance the issues are so grave and they go to the heart of to the administration of justice,” Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin told TheJournal.ie today.

He agreed the payments in legal fees need to be capped.

Obviously from the outset of the inquiry we need to make sure we limit the costs as much as we possible can and do so in a reasonable manner.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty made similar calls for the government to be cognisant of costs.

“It is wrong for us to proceed to establish a tribunal under the 1921 Act. We all know that legislation is flawed in the area of costs.”

He said the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 (which has been languishing at committee stage since 2011) deals with limiting the costs of tribunals of investigation. The legislation has been approved by the Attorney General.

Doherty said the part of the legislation which deals with the reduction of costs should pass before the establishment of the Charleton inquiry. He said:

Do I want to stall in any way this tribunal of inquiry being established?  No, I do not, but do we have an ability in this House and the Seanad to introduce that part of the 2005 Bill in the next week? Yes, we do. It would allow the sole member of the Tribunal of inquiry to tell each witness the amount for which they would be covered for legal costs.

“No longer would we have witnesses coming in with five barristers and two junior counsels looking to recoup their costs from the State. It would be the judge who would decide what is appropriate for legal representation to be paid by the State.

No longer would public relations consultants be allowed to be hired by witnesses and have their costs paid by the State. It would allow the Minister to set regulations to cap the amount paid for legal representation. We have the ability to do this. It is very simple.

Read: Charleton Tribunal will examine allegations of ‘inappropriate contacts’ between gardaí and Tusla>

Read: Michael McDowell calls for the Garda Commissioner to step aside>

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