US$50,000 Telenor Donation to Fine Gael
The Moriarty Tribunal conducted lengthy and hugely expensive inquiries between May 2001 and November 2001 relating to a single political donation of US$50,000 from Telenor to the Fine Gael party. Telenor, the Norwegian State owned Telecommunications giant, was a 40% shareholder in the Esat Digifone consortium that won the second mobile phone licence competition in October 1995. The donation of US$50,000 was paid in late 1995 and related to a fundraising event held by the Fine Gael party in New York.
The Moriarty Tribunal pursued inquires into the US$50,000 donation following the publication of an article in the Sunday Tribune newspaper in early 2001. The source of the story in the Sunday Tribune has never been disclosed. The Moriarty Tribunal has stated that the publication of this story was a significant factor in its subsequent decision to recommence its inquiries into the awarding of the second mobile phone licence. The Tribunal had previously conducted inquiries into the licence process in 1999 and decided that insufficient evidence existed to merit proceeding to public sittings in relation to that process.
The donation to Fine Gael was a perfectly legitimate and legal political donation. It has been accepted by all concerned (including the Moriarty Tribunal) that absolutely no rule of law was broken in relation to the matter.
What is most significant about this inquiry is that the Moriarty Tribunal has accepted that this was at all times a political donation to the Fine Gael party. Critically, it was not (and was never intended) to be a payment to Michael Lowry. Indeed, Michael Lowry had already resigned as a member of the Fine Gael party by the time the monies were passed to the Fine Gael party.
The Tribunal has absolutely no mandate to inquire into political donations to Fine Gael or indeed to any other political party. As such, this matter is wholly outside the Tribunal’s Terms of Reference and ought not to have formed the basis of any conclusions on the part of the Moriarty Tribunal in its Final Report.