A joint settlement by businessman Denis O’Brien and Independent TD Michael Lowry with land agent Kevin Phelan was considered two months before they struck separate deals with him, it has emerged.
In June 2002, Mr O’Brien’s solicitor warned against Mr Lowry having any part in a large “global payment” because it could suggest a connection between them.
It recently emerged that Mr Lowry paid Mr Phelan £248,624 on Aug 28, 2002. Six days earlier, Mr O’Brien separately settled his account for £150,000.
In a taped conversation with Mr Phelan, Mr Lowry discussed Mr O’Brien’s £150,000 deal but said he would be ruined if his own became public.
Confirmation of Mr Lowry’s Aug 2002 payment contradicts what he told the Moriarty Tribunal —= that his only payments to Mr Phelan were made in March and April 2002.
According to his evidence, these earlier fees amounted to £65,000 and related to his project in Wigan.
Two months later, Mr O’Brien’s solicitor, Owen O’Connell, issued advice on a proposed joint settlement.
A note, prepared for Denis O’Brien Sr, the businessman’s father, on June 11, 2002, discussed the effect of a single payment by Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien.
In a note, Mr O’Connell said the tribunal was hoping to bring Mr Phelan in and he had the potential to be hostile to Mr O’Brien.
The note said Mr Lowry should be asked not to make a larger payment.
“Concern heightened by apparent collaboration with ML [Michael Lowry]/ML advisor in making larger payment,” the note read.
“Recommendation is to ask ML not to make any payment in anticipation of Denis O’Brien contribution and to exclude Denis O’Brien/Westferry from any deal/settlement he may reach telling KP [Kevin Phelan] to make a written claim against Westferry.”
In 2007, Mr O’Connell told the tribunalappeared at the tribunal to explain this note. He said he was instructed that Mr Lowry’s accountant, Denis O’Connor, had contacted the O’Briens about both parties making a joint deal with Mr Phelan.
“I am advising that that’s a really bad idea, because anything which suggested connections between Denis O’Brien Junior and Michael Lowry was sensitive in the context of this Tribunal, and shouldn’t be followed or promoted,” Mr O’Connell told the tribunal.
“And that is the explanation for that payment. The larger payment would be the global payment.”
Mr Lowry, who gave evidence shortly after Mr O’Connell, said the solicitor was mistaken and that his accountant was not negotiating a larger payment but was looking for confirmation of the earlier deal he struck with Mr Phelan.
“I wanted confirmation that I was finished with him in Vineacre. I didn’t want that claim coming in for a percentage of Vineacre at a later stage,” Mr Lowry said.
Mr O’Brien Sr, who dealt with the Kevin Phelan negotiations on his son’s behalf, told the tribunal he had no recollection of this advice from Mr O’Connell on June 11, 2002.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section