Gardaí who failed to cooperate with Tribunal had legal costs paid by the State

Barristers representing gardaí, some of whom failed to cooperate with the Morris Tribunal, were paid almost €4.6 million in fees, while the victims of some of these gardaí, the McBreartys, were denied guarantee on their legal costs.

Barristers representing gardaí at the Morris Tribunal were paid €4,590,300 by the State, even through in some instances some of these gardaí had failed to co-operate fully with the Tribunal. Many of the gardaí concerned were severely criticised by the Tribunal.

These costs were paid by the State even thought the Tribunal did not award costs to the gardaí concerned. The arrangement whereby these costs were paid by the State arose from the Garda Commissioner instructing barristers to act on his behalf and on behalf of several gardaí who appeared at the Tribunal. The State automatically paid the costs on behalf of the Garda Commissioner.

From the outset of the Tribunal's hearing, the gardaí represented by counsel engaged by the Garda Commissioner, had a guarantee of their legal costs being paid by the State, irrespective of whether they cooperated with the Tribunal or not. Normally legal costs are not awarded to witnesses at Tribunal where the Tribunal have found they have failed to co-operate fully.

The McBrearty family was denied a guarantee of their legal costs throughout the module dealing with their case. As a consequence they were unable to fund their own legal costs on an ongoing basis and were unrepresented by the tribunal for most of the relevant hearings. This was a major issue of contention with the McBrearty family and the Tribunal, also between the McBreartys and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell.

Jim Higgins, the Fine Gael MEP and senator, who as a TD first brought the McBrearty case to public attention in the Dáil said "The inequity of the whole situation is mind-boggling. Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, has repeatedly refused a guarantee of legal costs before the Tribunal to the innocent McBrearty family, while forking out €4.5 million of taxpayers money to fund the legal representation of 101 gardaí

"Furthermore the legal team representing the Minister himself has been funded to the tune of €399,314. as a result of the Minister's bias, the McBrearty's and other witnesses before the Tribunal were at a distinct disadvantage when giving evidence, in that they had no legal team to cross-examine the Garda witnesses. McDowell has been scandalously discriminatory in this issue."

Costs awarded to Patrick Marrinan SC representing these gardaí were €1,620,124 in total; to Michael Durack SC €1,178,457; Tara Burns BL €734,524; Paul Gormley BL, €295,654; the late Eamon Leahy SC, who died suddenly during the hearings of the Tribunal, €456,924; and Nuala Butler €304,617.

This information was supplied by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to Bernard Durkan, the Fine Gael TD for Kildare, who tabled questions to the Minister on behalf of Jim Higgins MEP. In an addendum to this information Michael McDowell added: "In conclusion because questions 486 to 488 were taken together on 21 June and question 486 was answered in its entirety the necessity to provide the additional information in relation to question 488 was overlooked due to an administrative oversight. The additional information sought is contained in this reply. I regret any inconvenience caused to the deputy".

Vincent Browne