Belfast Telegraph

Elementary? Not if Moriarty has anything to say about it

By Kevin Myers

On May 4, 1891, Professor Moriarty lured Sherlock Holmes to his 'death' at the Reichenbach Falls, enabling Arthur Conan Doyle to end the Holmes stories. But 12 years later, poor old Doyle was badgered into resurrecting both men.

A century on, the ability of a Moriarty to remain in the centre of affairs seems not to have diminished one whit. Our current heir to the Moriarty tradition of persistence has now been at it for nearly 13 years.

And why not another 13? The tribunal declared of itself in 1997: "This term of reference also applies to any money ever held in accounts for the benefit of, or in the name of, any other person who holds or has held ministerial office."

The key word here is 'ever'. So, there's logically no reason why the tribunal should not go on for all time, examining - say - the fate of the monies brought back from the US by Eamon de Valera, or given to Parnell by Cecil Rhodes.

Look, I confess, I'm not an expert on Moriarty. But then even Mr Justice Moriarty admits that he's not.

He's just announced that, two years ago, two "significant errors" were made by his tribunal. I am too old and broken by contemplation of these matters, and you are too young and delicate, for either one of us to embitter what remains of our lives with the details of either error. So whether or not they entirely invalidate the intervening labour, I am as unable to say as I am to state the number of gallons of water that gush over the Reichenbach Falls every dozen years - which seems to be the basic unit of time which applies, in matters Moriarty.

Both its leading counsel, Messrs Coughlan and Healy, could even become witnesses before it, and therefore themselves (and no, I won't explain). Which could mean each could be obliged to interrogate himself ("I put it to you sir, namely me sir, that you sir, that is to say, I . . .").

Moreover, we have had a witness called Austin, and another, Carr. Nor have we lacked for monastic sites, with one witness called Cashell and another Kells.

An accountant was named Price, and another Fox. Kinship was assured with a witness called Cousins, and the Iberian dimension by one called Spain. Venerable sagacity was provided by Olden and Wyse. Some unexpectedly amphibian skills were suggested by a helicopter executive called Barnicle, while there was a hint of dykes, dams and dear old Holland in the presence of a Mr Vanderpumps. And to give us a sense of the porcine trough which the tribunal has extended to the Bar Library, we had a witness called Bacon.

Nearly 13 years have elapsed since Moriarty was born. Since then, one of its main witnesses - who turned out to be too ill to be much of a witness anyway - has died and was given a state funeral. Maybe, with the due passage of time, that fate will similarly befall other participants. Who can say?

Certainly, no one, 13 years ago, seemed aware of the apparently boundless nature of the Moriarty remit. Thirteen years is the period between the assassinations of the Archduke in Sarajevo in 1914 and of the Free State Minister for Justice Kevin O'Higgins in 1927 - and what a cataract of blood connects those two dates.

The same amount of time joins the first Dail in 1919 and the accession to power of Fianna Fail in 1932. Moreover, Moriarty has already outlasted the Third Reich - Hitler's chancellorship began in January 1933 and ended in April 1945.

Seasoned observers - most of them broken, grizzled and gibbering - agree that Moriarty has cost some €100m.

How much time and money have been wasted because of the tribunal's "significant errors"? And around 20 lawyers (with senior counsel charging €2,500 per day) gather daily to attend the measured enunciation of evidence. (Tribunal barristers don't wear wigs, no doubt to enable their greying temples to discreetly declare just how long this is all taking).

"It is quite a three-pipe problem," Sherlock Holmes once famously observed to his companion, "and I beg that you won't speak to me for 50 minutes."

I'm not quite sure what Watson would have said if he'd been told to wait some 13 years, with maybe the same still to come.

But I bloody well know what I'd say - if, that is, either Moriarty ever asked me.

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