Belfast Telegraph

Minister hits out in Moriarty row

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has launched a withering attack on billionaire Denis O'Brien and TD Michael Lowry, accusing them of a deplorable attack on the independence of the justice system.

The pair were singled out after making damaging allegations against the Moriarty Tribunal and its damning findings over the controversial award of the state's second mobile phone licence.

Mr Shatter said the media and telecoms tycoon and Independent TD had brought the judiciary into disrepute.

The two men launched personal assaults on tribunal chair Judge Michael Moriarty, claiming they were the victims in the 14-year inquiry into the massive money-making scandal.

The mammoth investigation uncovered clandestine meetings in pubs and a covert money trail using off-shore banks and found former communications minister Mr Lowry passed on classified information crucial to Mr O'Brien's successful bid.

His Esat Digifone consortium won the competition in 1996 and he later sold it for more than 2 billion euro.

Mr Shatter, who on Thursday refused to call for Mr Lowry to quit politics for fear of prejudicing potential criminal prosecution, accused the men of trying to undermine confidence in the administration of justice.

"Our judiciary play a crucial role in upholding the constitutional rights of individuals, rich or poor, without fear of, or favour to any one individual or the state itself," the minister said.

"The independent and impartial role of the judiciary and their constitutional status precludes the judiciary from responding to the intemperate attacks that have occurred.

"Statements which endanger public confidence in our judiciary and in our courts are entirely unacceptable and are to be deplored."

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