Four­teen years a long time to pro­duce Tri­bunal re­port

Bray People - - OPINION - with IVAN Yates

THERE IS a dis­parag­ing say­ing used to dis­miss opin­ions, “What could you ex­pect from a pig, but a grunt?” That adage could counter my views of the fi­nal Mo­ri­arty Tri­bunal Re­port. I was a mem­ber of cabi­net in 1995, when Esat Digi­fone was awarded the li­cence and cur­rently work in me­dia owned by De­nis O'Brien. I have been a col­league and friend of Michael Lowry for 30 years. I re­main a tri­bunal scep­tic. Four­teen years is an in­ex­pli­ca­bly long time to pro­duce a mag­nus opus that has the mere stand­ing of opin­ion, in terms of law en­force­ment. Full rigours of the Garda Fraud Squad, Crim­i­nal As­sets Bu­reau and DPP should pur­sue any wrong do­ing. Some key con­clu­sions are sup­po­si­tion that may not be sus­tained in the process of crim­i­nal law en­force­ment.

I vividly re­call the cabi­net meet­ing that rat­i­fied the award of the mo­bile tele­phone li­cence. It was a spe­cial evening meet­ing out­side of the rou­tine weekly gov­ern­ment busi­ness. As con­firmed by Mo­ri­arty, Min­is­ters wanted to be at arms' length from the se­lec­tion process. We were as­sured the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, through the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral John Loughrey, had car­ried out an in­de­pen­dent, im­par­tial, best prac­tice competition. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Der­mot Glee­son con­firmed his of­fice was sat­is­fied it was merit based.

If Min­is­ters at­tempted to un­ravel this process and in­ter­fere, we would be open to charges of par­tial­ity and im­proper con­duct. I await pub­lic re­sponses from both men to the re­port. They pro­vided ad­min­is­tra­tive and legal as­sur­ances of fair­ness and in­tegrity to cabi­net.

De­spite top­ping the poll in Tip­per­ary North in 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2011, Michael Lowry's rep­u­ta­tion is se­verely dam­aged by the find­ings. It was ex­tremely un­wise of him to have meet­ings with li­cence ap­pli­cants, with­out civil ser­vants present. As Min­is­ter, I in­sisted on hav­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials present for meet­ings of a com­mer­cial na­ture.

Lowry has a ' che­quered ca­reer' in re­la­tion to tax de­fault. FG ex­pelled him for these ac­tions. His role with Ben Dunne in a rent re­view in­volv­ing Eir­com was most ir­reg­u­lar and wrong. He faces se­vere dif­fi­cul­ties with likely lack of re­coup­ment of Tri­bunal legal ex­penses. Due process must and will ap­ply to him, es­pe­cially as a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.

Judge Michael Mo­ri­arty was obliged to al­ter orig­i­nal pre­lim­i­nary find­ings due to fac­tual er­rors. He showed ques­tion­able judge­ment in ap­point­ing to his legal tri­bunal team a bar­ris­ter, who acted as legal ad­vi­sor to the un­suc­cess­ful Per­sona li­cence ap­pli­cant.

Any lawyer in­volved in the orig­i­nal competition should not have been con­sid­ered for such work. To avoid fu­ture vex­a­tion from ag­grieved losers for such com­pe­ti­tions, new pro­ce­dures must be con­sid­ered. Given the enor­mous ben­e­fit con­ferred, it would be fairer to de­ter­mine the competition on the ba­sis of the high­est bid­der. A beauty con­test will al­ways be sub­jec­tive and open to crit­i­cism. A ten­der­ing process would yield the high­est re­turn to the tax payer. No rec­om­men­da­tion is made in this fun­da­men­tal re­gard.

A com­plete ban of cor­po­rate do­na­tions to po­lit­i­cal par­ties would have been an ap­pro­pri­ate over­all pro­posal from the Jus­tice. The Flood Tri­bunal Re­port has sub­se­quently been torn to pieces in the Supreme Court. The Tri­bunal process is dis­cred­ited by virtue of cost, de­lay and ir­rel­e­vance.

The so­lu­tion? Dáil Com­mit­tees must be given full pow­ers to carry out such en­quiries in fu­ture to en­sure proper speedy accountability of pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion.

ROUND & ROUND THE MERRY-GO-ROUND

Last week's EU Sum­mit of Prime Min­is­ters was billed as the plat­form for a 'Grand Bar­gain'. Re­vised ar­chi­tec­ture for the Euro­pean Sta­bil­ity Fund was ex­pected to en­sure ad­e­quate re­sources to pro­vide for bailout needs of delin­quent Eu­ro­zone states. It was a damp squib. Euro­pean lead­ers, EU Com­mis­sion and ECB seem to oc­cupy a par­al­lel planet to fi­nan­cial mar­kets.

Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment bonds, over two and ten year pe­ri­ods now ex­ceed 10% cost of fundrais­ing. Dif­fer­en­tial pric­ing be­tween us and Ger­many is now so great that in­vestors have in­cluded for in­evitabil­ity of a de­fault. Dither­ing and de­lay by Eu­ro­crats in fac­ing the re­al­ity of un­sus­tain­able debt re­pay­ments is re­mark­able.

The most ur­gent and im­por­tant pri­or­ity for the new gov­ern­ment is to fix the banks. It was sen­si­ble to post­pone con­sid­er­a­tion of ad­just­ments to the Ir­ish bailout un­til af­ter the lat­est stress tests on banks were com­pleted. 1% re­duc­tion in cost of funds and re­ten­tion of our 12.5% Cor­po­ra­tion Tax rate will be achieved. These are side shows.

The agree­ment reached be­tween the last Gov­ern­ment and the EU/IMF is now un­work­able. The banks need even more cash.

Ex­pect the fi­nal fig­ure, based on a worst case sce­nario, to be an ad­di­tional €50bn for an Ir­ish bank bailout - this is on top of €46bn al­ready com­mit­ted (dis­re­gard­ing €30bn com­mit­ted to Nama). Banks have been kept open, avoid­ing tur­bu­lent liq­ui­da­tion, by virtue of a trans­fu­sion of €120bn from the ECB and €70bn from our Cen­tral Bank.

Over the past three years there has been a steady with­drawal of de­posits from our in­sti­tu­tions. Losses from prop­erty re­lated lend­ing are cat­a­strophic. Com­bined loan books of banks equate to five times the size of the Ir­ish econ­omy. The Ir­ish tax payer can­not re­pay €10bn a year in in­ter­est.

Soon, the penny will drop in Frank­furt - they may not get their €120bn back any time soon. Delu­sional de­nial con­tin­ues apace.

COME AND COL­LECT

Money is tight in ev­ery house­hold, yet re­mark­ably, more than €100ml in tax re­lief is un­claimed each year. This re­lates to med­i­cal ex­penses, rental ac­com­mo­da­tion costs and other ex­pen­di­tures that are not be­ing off­set against in­come tax. Ev­ery tax payer is en­ti­tled to go back four years for un­claimed costs. If in doubt, those at work should phone 1890306706 to ob­tain tax re­turn forms. Check with your chemist, doc­tor and land­lord for past costs.

Gen­uine ex­penses in­curred by tax­pay­ers do­ing their job can also be al­lowed (e.g. tools, equip­ment and spe­cial work clothes). An up­per limit of €400 ap­plies to tax re­lief on lo­cal ser­vice charges, re­coupable on a prior year ba­sis. If your em­ployer has paid your med­i­cal in­surance, you may be en­ti­tled to tax re­lief. Where there were dual in­comes, now re­duced to one in­come, you should im­me­di­ately ap­ply for a bal­anc­ing state­ment and max­imise re­vised cred­its and al­lowances.

Onus of fair treat­ment de­pends en­tirely on you the tax payer. Time to be savvy, save ev­ery cent you can.

Lowry has a ‘che­quered ca­reer’ in re­la­tion to tax de­fault. FG ex­pelled him for these ac­tions

TIP BIT

Ain­tree Grand Na­tional is on next Satur­day. I sug­gest an Each Way in­vest­ment on Big Fella Thanks. He com­pleted the ar­du­ous course twice, fin­ish­ing 6th and 4th in the past two years, chang­ing own­er­ship and switch­ing sta­bles from Paul Ni­cholls to Ferdy Mur­phy.

Graham Lee takes the ride hav­ing pre­vi­ously won he race in 2004. His last run in New­bury was most promis­ing, staying on well at the fin­ish. He had a re­cent bril­liant work out at the Liver­pool track. At odds of 16/1, he is the safest op­tion in this most haz­ardous steeple chase.

De­spite be­ing a poll top­per in suc­ces­sive elec­tions Michael Lowry's rep­u­ta­tion is se­verely dam­aged by the find­ings of the Mo­ri­arty Tri­bunal.

Money is tight in ev­ery house­hold, yet re­mark­ably, more than €100 mil­lion in tax re­lief is un­claimed each year.

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