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Cabinet didn't interfere in licence award -- Yates

FORMER government minister Ivan Yates (below) recalled today how the recommendation that Esat Digifone should get a mobile phone licence was presented in a special evening meeting of the Cabinet, where the issue was the sole item on the agenda.

Mr Yates said that he "very clearly" remembered the events around the awarding of the country's second licence in 1996, noting that the Cabinet never interfered.

The broadcaster who now works for Denis O'Brien's Newstalk radio station said: "It was presented to us almost hot foot. It had come from the project team, it had come from the international consultants through the Department of Communications and the recommendation was that Esat Digifone should get it."

"We had advice from the Attorney General and from the secretary of the department John Loughrey to say best practice had been done," said the ex-agriculture minister.

"Actually there was no substantive discussion on it whatsoever.

"It was simply a case we do not want to politically interfere with this. There may be vexations in relation to the competition.

"Are people saying that the Cabinet should have interfered? Someone like me should have asked what happened to Consortium A and Consortium B?

"We would be stingingly accused if we did that."

Questioned on his own breakfast show on Newstalk, Mr Yates denied any knowledge of a fundraiser where $50,000 was donated to Fine Gael by associates of Denis O'Brien.

"I can rely on my memory totally. I have never attended any Fine Gael fundraiser outside of the state be it in New York or London or anywhere else. "

He called for a further investigation into the findings of Mr Justice Michael Moriarty.

"This is a democratic state with proper procedure. Let the report be sent to the DPP, sent to the revenue commissioners and everyone in authority and let them do their best to peruse this and let the onus of proof go before our courts," he said.