Michael Lowry has said his legal team is already preparing an appeal against the High Court’s decision to dismiss the independent TD’s challenge to the Moriarty Tribunal’s decision to only award him one third of his legal costs.
In a statement last night, he said: “As I have already stated, I have never accepted the findings issued by the Moriarty Tribunal as they were not grounded on any evidence or facts presented throughout the length of its sittings.
“It is very concerning that the judgment today erroneously claims that the tribunal had made a finding that I had been engaged in bribery and perjury.
“The tribunal never made and could not have made any such finding and it is a matter of the gravest concern that such a damaging claim has been made.”
Dismissing on all grounds Mr Lowry’s challenge to the decision of the Moriarty Tribunal to only award him one third of his legal costs — a bill he says will run into millions of euro — Mr Justice John Hedigan said Mr Lowry engaged in “a litany of falsification and deception”, including the alteration of a solicitor’s files, in his failure to co-operate with the Moriarty Tribunal.
The tribunal had found the Tipperary North TD concealed certain of his dealings from it, as well as findings of perjury and bribery of a potential witness to support false evidence, said the judge.
The tribunal was set up in 1997 to investigate payments to Mr Lowry and the former taoiseach Charles Haughey. As a result of Mr Lowry’s conduct, the tribunal was frustrated, misled, and its work was protracted significantly, Mr Justice Hedigan said.
Its findings, which were not challenged by him, were “a litany of falsification and deception by Mr Lowry”.
In light of its findings, the tribunal’s rationale for allowing him only a third of his costs was based on the general rulings criteria of false and misleading information, and time lost as a result, the judge said.
It was also based on the centrality of Mr Lowry in the areas in which he failed to co-operate and the fact such co-operation could not be reduced to a mathematical formula, he said.
The tribunal found the non-cooperation related to various aspects of the so-called money trail rather than in relation to what was called the “GSM module” — an area related to the awarding of the country’s first mobile phone licence by Mr Lowry when he was communications minister.
The tribunal considered the falsification and concealment went to the very core of its inquiries, the judge said. It considered the falsification of a solicitor’s files prior to providing them to the tribunal was “conduct of the most reprehensible nature”.
The tribunal “might well have withheld all of Mr Lowry’s costs” and might even have had a basis for ordering him to pay some of its costs, the judge said. It was certainly within the bounds of reasonableness to decide to withhold just two-thirds of his costs.
He found the tribunal was fair and proportionate in deciding to only award Mr Lowry one third, he said.
In relation to Mr Lowry’s claim that he was discriminated against compared to Mr Haughey, who was awarded all his costs, Mr Justice Hedigan also rejected his arguments.
Mr Lowry had argued Mr Haughey had got his costs on the basis of what seemed equitable with no formulation as how they could be determined. It was argued the conduct of Mr Haughey was found by the tribunal to be the same as that of Mr Lowry.
Mr Justice Hedigan said the tribunal had argued their cases were not the same. Mr Haughey did not volunteer information in relation to payments to him and “feigned ignorance” of other matters. “He did not, however, deliberately mislead the tribunal whereas Mr Lowry did,” said the judge.
The judge also rejected Mr Lowry’s claims the tribunal did not re-examine the evidence objectively, or give him an opportunity to make submissions or argue his case before deciding costs.
It seemed to Mr Justice Hedigan the tribunal did not base its decision “on anything other than its findings in relation to Mr Lowry’s conduct before the tribunal”. No second hearing was required to decide costs.
Mr Lowry “failed to demonstrate any unreasonableness or irrationality, disproportionality, or discrimination” by the tribunal, the judge added.
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