Moriarty to recall civil servants over Esat licence

THE Moriarty Tribunal is expected to recall several senior civil servants who oversaw a competition to award the State’s second mobile phone licence to a consortium headed by millionaire businessman Denis O’Brien next month.

It is understood that the surprise decision to recall three civil servants to give evidence was taken after controversy erupted last week over the discovery of a document which only recently came to the attention of Mr O’Brien.

The inquiry is investigating possible links between former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry and Mr O’Brien after the latter’s Esat consortium was awarded the mobile phone licence in 1996 by the Government in which Mr Lowry was Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.

The tribunal is examining whether Mr Lowry had any influence on the process to award the licence and if he received any money from Mr O’Brien.

The document, which was drafted by barrister, Richard Nesbitt SC in May 1996 at the request of the Attorney General, Dermot Gleeson, offered the legal opinion that the Government could go ahead with the awarding of the licence to the Esat consortium, even though it did not address in detail concerns within the department about a difference between the stated and actual composition of the company’s shareholding.

Esat had not initially informed civil servants overseeing the licence competition that businessman Dermot Desmond had a sizeable interest in the consortium.

Both Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien claim the document contradicts one of the provisional findings issued by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty, in a draft report to relevant parties last year.


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