An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Thursday, January 22, 2004  

Why are tribunals expensive?

I arrived at Dublin Castle and entered the Coach House. A dignified if somewhat intimate location for the enquiry. Attending the Tribunal are:
Chairman (judge) Moriarty
2 x SC for the Tribunal John Coughlan and Jerry Healy
5 (approx) underlings, stenographers etc
2 x SC for Denis O'Brien - Ian McGonigle and Gerry Kelly
What looked like 2 x SC for the Dept of Communications
2 x SC and 1 x Junior for Telenor
1 x Junior for Michael Lowry
1 x solicitor and 1 x junior for me
2 other reps for Persona, a losing consortium. Not sure if they were legal or not.
Various other people unidentifiable.

At 2.5k per SC that's a lot of money in one room. What's the alternative? Some will argue that the witnesses should not have legal representation in line with other models like the Hutton enquiry in England. BUT, the tribunal is enquiring into matters which will affect people's reputation. For example:
- Allegations are made to which the witnesses cannot respond for months, in some cases years.
- The Tribunal behaves more like a prosecutor than an enquirer so normal business dealings are presented as underhand.
This means that witnesses are having perfectly innocent actions from years ago presented as being part of a corrupt conspiracy and because this all takes place in public the general public can and do make adverse judgements. Do you know anyone who thinks that the mobile licence was correctly awarded to Digifone? The actual report which may exonerate those people (primarily the civil servants) will not appear for years.
- The eventual reports might be worded in a vague manner and not clearly state that the character of the witnesses is intact.

It is this time lag which is crucial. While the enquiry takes place everyone assumes that, for example in the Moriarty case, that Digifone did not deserve the licence and Denis O'Brien and Fine Gael were up to no good. So while the Hutton Enquiry is rightly referenced as an excellent model, its report will be with parliament on the 28th of January. That enquiry was established, conducted and will report in a very short space of time thus giving all parties a fair hearing. Others may argue that the financial dealings involved in Moriarty make it impossible to conduct matters more efficiently but the Public Accounts Committee hearing into the DIRT showed that complex matters can be investigated quickly. In addition, the 'money trail' is always conducted in private - it is the public sittings which are most expensive and the most damaging to people's reputation.
I met the Tribunal privately nearly 2 years ago I think. I made a statement. I think one of the reasons I had to give evidence publicly was so that the other parties involved (e.g. telenor etc) could cross-examine me. (which they did). There are so many vested interests that it is hard to see how to protect them all. But the result is the same: a huge transfer of wealth from the state to the legal profession.

posted by Sarah | 21:54 0 comments
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