Barrister Grainne Gilmore (28) was asked by the new Attorney General to be part of a legal team in a High Court case taken by objectors attempting to stop the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline.
But the party has denied allegations of a cosy relationship, pointing out that Ms Gilmore turned down the offer to work for the new AG and had carried out work for a previous AG under the Fianna Fail-led government.
It is understood Ms Gilmore, a barrister specialising in environmental law, worked for the former AG on “several occasions” when her father was on the opposition benches.
“She has undertaken work for the State during the period of office of the previous Attorney General,” a Labour Party spokesman said. “She was offered a brief in this case but declined it as she had offered advice to other parties potentially involved.”
The case involved attempts by objectors to stop the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline. The lawyers appointed to represent the State in this case are Niamh Hyland and Michael Cush.
She also taught EC Law, Environmental Law and Constitutional Law at NUIG.
GARDAI are investigating if the Moriarty Tribunal judge’s personal phone line was tapped just a week before his damning report was published.
The Irish Independent has learned that specialist detectives examined the landline phone in Mr Justice Michael Moriarty‘s office at Dublin Castle.
An investigation was ordered by the garda authorities after they received a report outlining tribunal concerns that a landline used by the tribunal judge had been compromised.
One line of inquiry being pursued is the possibility that Mr Justice Moriarty’s most sensitive calls on his private phone line were monitored and recorded.
The garda investigation began in the days leading up to the publication of the report, but was shrouded in secrecy.
Detectives were still working on the phone probe all through last week.
But details of the investigation only emerged last night, amid ongoing fallout from the mammoth report into the circumstances surrounding the awarding of Ireland‘s second mobile phone licence in 1995.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night moved to defend his special adviser after his links to disgraced former minister Michael Lowry were highlighted over the weekend.
And Fine Gael faces another onslaught of questions in the Dail this week about the tribunal report.
Aside from the political fallout, the phone-tapping allegations only added to the growing intrigue.
Officers from the garda communications and technology unit were sent to Dublin Castle to check out the building complex used by the tribunal.
They carried out a comprehensive sweep of all telephone lines used by the judge and his staff and also checked out other equipment such as computer outlets.
But they found no evidence of any interference with the lines.
It is understood that the line was traced through a number of intermediary stages back to the telephone exchange after an incident on the phone in Mr Justice Moriarty’s office first aroused suspicion.
Checks are to be made in the next few days on external phone access points to find out if attempts had been made there to bug calls.
The publication of the report last Tuesday surprised everyone involved at the tribunal through its 14 years, including the legal teams.
Mr Justice Moriarty decided not to follow the tradition of publishing tribunal reports by having them bound and printed. The 2,230-page report concluded that businessman Denis O’Brien passed money to former Communications Minister Michael Lowry, who was found to have helped secure the telecoms mogul a mobile phone licence 16 years ago.
The Taoiseach last night launched a staunch defence of his special adviser Mark Kennelly, who worked for Mr Lowry during the period examined in the tribunal findings.
Mr Kennelly worked for Mr Lowry from 1995 to 1996, during the period when the multibillion euro mobile phone licence was awarded.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Mr Kennelly’s part during his time working for Mr Lowry.
But his recent appointment as a special adviser to the Taoiseach now leaves the party open to accusations it has failed to move on from past controversies.
“Mr Kennelly has been working for Fine Gael for the past 21 years. Only one brief period was spent with Michael Lowry,” Mr Kenny said. “He (Mr Kennelly) denies all knowledge, role or involvement whatsoever in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence.”
Mr Kennelly is not mentioned in the Moriarty Tribunal report, having previously confirmed to the McCracken Tribunal he had no knowledge of the dealings between Mr Lowry and Mr O’Brien.
Mr Lowry also last night told the Irish Independent that Mr Kennelly had “absolutely nothing to do with the issues relating to the licence”.
“I think it’s a sad twist that anybody would infer that Mark Kennelly’s career should be in any way tied into this episode,” he said. “Mark Kennelly is a person of the highest integrity.”
Mr Kennelly was unavailable for comment last night.
But with opposition parties preparing to grill Fine Gael on past donations and fundraisers, the appointment of Mr Kennelly has cast a light again on party links to Mr Lowry.
TDs are preparing for a special Dail debate this week on the Moriarty Tribunal report which opposition parties will use to try and embarrass the party.
– Sam Smyth, Tom Brady and Aine Kerr
and then this
EOIN BURKE-KENNEDY and PAUL CULLENMinister for Education Ruairí Quinn has rejected suggestions there was a collective failure on the part of the then-government in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s consortium in 1995.
Mr Quinn was minister for finance at the time of the licence competition and was a member of the cabinet subcommittee on telecommunications which recommended opening exclusive negotiations with Esat Digifone.
Asked on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland if he felt the government of the day fell down on the job, Mr Quinn said: “No, I don’t”.
However, he declined to enter into a detailed discussion on the matter in advance of tomorrow’s Dáil debate on the Moriarty report.
Mr Justice Michael Moriarty’s report, published last week, concluded that Independent TD Michael Lowry, then minister for communications, interfered with the competition process for the licence and secured the contract for Mr O’Brien’s consortium.
“There is a very clear record of my account that I gave to Mr Justice Moriarty in his very voluminous report, and I have no problem with the manner in which my comments have been described or, indeed, with his conclusions,” Mr Quinn said.
Asked if he thought Mr Lowry should resign following the damning revelations in the report, Mr Quinn said he supported Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore’s call for Mr Lowry to step down.
Meanwhile, former taoiseach John Bruton has expressed disappointment and regret over the licence process.
Making his first comment since the publication of the Moriarty report last week, Mr Bruton yesterday defended his actions as a member of the government that made the decision.
He said he was still in the process of reading the 2,400-page report and “would prefer not to make specific comment until I have further satisfied myself as to all the facts”.
But he added: “One has to look back on this matter with great disappointment and regret.”
He was responding to claims by Persona, which lost out to Mr O’Brien in the competition for the licence, that politicians in the then-governing rainbow coalition had failed to heed its concerns on the result.
Persona chairman Tony Boyle said yesterday his consortium contacted the Democratic Left leader Proinsias de Rossa and Mr Bruton about its reservations. Mr Bruton wrote back that the government “fully supported” the decision taken by then minister for communications Michael Lowry, Mr Boyle claimed.
In the letter, Mr Bruton wrote he was “fully satisfied that the process conducted by the minister and independent consultants was absolutely fair, objective and non-discriminatory”. He responded to Mr Boyle’s claims, citing a number of reasons why the cabinet subcommittee on telecommunications recommended exclusive negotiations be opened with Esat Digifone for the licence.
He pointed out yesterday that civil servants who assessed the bids had recommended Esat, as had an external consultant. Mr Bruton said it was the committee’s understanding that Mr Lowry was not involved in the process.
“We were also greatly reassured by the fact that civil servants from more than one department were involved,” he told The Irish Times.
In 1995, the members of the committee were Mr Bruton, tánaiste Dick Spring of Labour and Proinsias De Rossa of Democratic Left, along with Mr Quinn.
The tribunal report stated it was “perhaps not surprising” that the four men “were left with the impression that there was a clear, unconditional and unequivocal outcome”, given the content of the documents Mr Lowry presented to them at a meeting in October 1995.
Mr Lowry bypassed consideration by his cabinet colleagues to deliver the result in favour of Esat, it said. He misled the coalition party leaders and sought to “overreach” Mr Bruton by claiming the government had no discretion in the decision.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said it was a matter for Mr Lowry to decide whether or not to resign as a TD.
The new government is in power a wet week and we have all this promises have been broken and waffle is the order of the day .It won’t be long before we will not know whether or not the promise not to put another cent (any colour of cent ) into the toxic banks will be honoured !
Another few months of this kind of business and we the Irish public will be asking ourselves whether on not we got any real change in the Dail. One thing is for sure the signs are not encouraging and I am now dusting off my demonstrating gear for possible use outside the Dail again !