Justice Minister Alan Shatter has confirmed that gardaí are examining a recorded conversation in which Michael Lowry contradicts evidence he supplied to the Moriarty Tribunal.
Transcripts of a Sept 2004 discussion between Michael Lowry and the land agent Kevin Phelan were recently published and were due to be broadcast for the first time on TV3 last night.
The original publication led to Mr Lowry confirming that a stg£248,264 payment had been made to Mr Phelan in Aug 2002 and was linked to his Tipperary refrigeration firm, Garuda Ltd.
The sum, timing, and origin of the payment contradicted specific evidence he supplied to the tribunal, through his solicitors, on the extent of a £65,000 settlement with Mr Phelan.
This week Mr Lowry was quizzed on Tipp FM about the second payment but refused to explain its origins.
He said that if the gardaí wanted to investigate the issue he would co-operate but that he would not facilitate a trial by media.
Mr Shatter, in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, confirmed that the gardaí were aware of the tape and were giving it attention.
However, he said he could not comment on Mr Doherty’s question on whether an offence had been committed under the Tribunal of Inquiries Act.
“As this process is ongoing and as I am informed by the Garda authorities that the matter referred to by the deputy is currently the subject of attention it would not be appropriate to comment in any further detail in respect of the matter at this stage,” said Mr Shatter.
The revelation that Mr Lowry paid Mr Phelan a second settlement emerged when the Sunday Independent published a lengthy transcript of a telephone conversation between the two men that took place in Sept 2004.
Mr Lowry’s subsequent explanations of the payment contradicted the evidence he gave to the tribunal.
It also emerged that the previously undisclosed payment was made six days after Denis O’Brien’s family settled a £150,000 demand of Mr Phelan arising from his work on a development at Doncaster Rovers.
One of the key components in the O’Brien-Phelan settlement was the retraction of reference to Mr Lowry in a 1999 fax discussion which discussed the Doncaster project.
Mr Lowry has repeatedly denied the tribunal’s assertion that the transaction around the purchase of Doncaster Rovers was set up in 1998 to reward the former Fine Gael minister.
Last night the Vincent Browne Show on TV3 was due to broadcast segments of the conversation, which was recorded secretly.
On Monday, Mr Lowry told Tipp FM that he had not been able to establish the veracity of the tape because he had not got a copy of it.
He said his legal team was examining its options on both sides of the border regarding the legality of secretly recording and subsequently publishing telephone contacts.
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