Limerick City Council pays legal fees of €600,000

LIMERICK City Council paid out just over €617,500 in legal expenses to solicitor firms and lawyers last year.

However, this figure does not include what the council describes as “significant” legals costs arising out of the sacking of Uniform Construction from the Limerick Main Drainage Scheme.

Figures released by the council under the Freedom of Information Act show that the Limerick firm of Holmes O’Malley received the biggest sum from the council in 2005, totalling €221,067 in fees, VAT and outlay. The fees alone came to just over €160,000.

Another Limerick firm, Wallace Reidy & Co received a total of €160,398 in fees, VAT and outlay. The fees for the company’s work for the council came to €121,112.

Other legal payments, including VAT and outlay, were paid to McMahon O’Brien Downes (€44,965), Thornton solicitors (€2,420), John A Tobin solicitors (€211), Richard T Keane, Senior Counsel (€20,908), Liam Gaynor SC (€1,815), Christina Ryan, BL (€3,684), Gerald M Tynan, SC (€2,069), Michael F Collins (€3,630), Dermot McKeon, BL (€49,331), George Brady, BL (€59,994), Tony O’Connor (€6,352), Gerard Kiely, BL (€33,244), Patrick Butler, SC (€6,050), Garret Simms (€1,210) and Andrew Sexton, BL (€441).

The council is facing massive legal bills arising out of a decision by an arbitrator in September which awarded Uniform Construction €32.3 million in compensation for being wrongfully dismissed form the main drainage scheme in 2001.

As the Department of the Environment advised the council in this matter, it is expected that the costs of this case will be borne by the department.

The council stated that the legal costs in the Uniform Construction case were “non routine.”

A council spokesman stated: “Significant legal costs have been incurred to date in this case. However, as the matter of these costs and who bears the liability for their payment remains to be adjudicated on, it would not be appropriate to release these figures at this time in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.”

Because of the dispute with Limerick City Council, Uniform have been precluded from tendering for State contracts since 2001.

The council spokesman said the figures for legal costs released under the Freedom of Information Act relate to normal operational activities.

He said: “These include property transfer/sales, public liability claims, housing matters etc. These costs are normally borne by the revenue account.”

The council spokesman said legal services are not put out to tender.

The spokesman said: “The council predominantly uses the services of three (Limerick) city law practices. These were not selected from a tendering process, but rather have been providing such specialist services to the City Council for a long number of years.”

He said the council does not avail of the services of an in-house legal adviser or employee.

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