Tribunal finds former Minister guilty of corruption

In its final report, the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin has accused former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry of “profoundly corrupt” dealings and a “venal abuse of office”.

The report compared Lowry -- currently an independent TD for Tipperary North -- to the notorious former Taoiseach Charles Haughey

Despite the damning findings of the 14-year investigation, Lowry has brazenly accused the tribunal of being “factually wrong and deliberately misleading”.

The Tribunal found covert arrangements were devised by supermarket mogul Ben Dunne and Lowry to remunerate Lowry in a manner that would enable him to evade tax.

Justice Michael Moriarty also said he was satisfied that ‘payments and other benefits’ were furnished by and on behalf of telecoms billionaire Denis O’Brien to then Minister for Communications; and that these were as a result of Lowry’s favourable attitude to O’Brien’s consortium during the competition for a highly lucrative mobile phone licence in the 26 Counties.

It also connected political donations to Fine Gael to the relationship O’Brien had with Lowry.

Among the words used by the tribunal to describe Lowry’s actions in influencing the awarding of the mobile phone licence were “disgraceful” and “insidious”. Lowry finally resigned from office in 1996.

Despite the decades-old scandal, the Tipperary TD has remained highly popular in his own constituency, and as recently as December secured a deal on the construction of a ‘super-casino’ in return for propping up the hugley unpopular Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition.

Lowry once served in government alongside current Taoiseach Enda Kenny and has been described as ‘best friends’ with former Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton.

The publication of the report has come as a major embarrassment to the new Fine Gael/Labour government, which loudly campaigned against the corrupt practices of Fianna Fail.

However, the report’s findings appear to have finally ended speculation that Lowry could rejoin his old party, from which he resigned in 1997.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams welcomed the publication of the report.

“The Moriarty report is a damning indictment of the behaviour of the former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry, as well as the lack of accountability and scrutiny of a Fine Gael government of which the Taoiseach was a member,” he said.

“The report says that Fine Gael benefited to the tune of $50,000. Was this declared to the US Justice Department at that time?

“Apparently, Fine Gael eventually returned this money. Presumably because it knew that this transaction was inappropriate. But what did Fine Gael do about this?

“The report also states that Fine Gael received up to 22,000 punts in other donations from Denis O’Brien or his companies. What did the party do about these?”

Mr Adams said “a culture of corruption and cronyism” has been revealed that “goes to the heart of the lack of trust which many citizens have in the political system”.

Mr Adams calld for fundamental political reform which would include holding Ministers and TDs to account for wrongdoing.

The final cost of the tribunal, frequently criticised for its lengthy deliberations and inflated legal fees, is estimated be around 200 million euro.

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