Institutes – Firm calls for halt to inquiry, reports Anthony Garvey.

An inquiry into alleged misconduct by Irish ICA members named in the report of a judicial inquiry into payments to politicians has been challenged in the courts.

The inquiry was established eight months ago by the institute. But one of the firms being investigated, Oliver M Freaney & Co, asked the Irish High Court to halt the inquiry.

It claimed the investigation was unfair and breached its constitutional rights. Freaneys also denied it had any case to answer. Sources close to the inquiry team said it will ‘vigorously defend’ its investigation.

Freaneys, the republic’s ninth largest accountancy firm, audited supermarket chain Dunnes Stores, whose former chairman, Ben Dunne, admitted to the tribunal that he gave #1.3m to former prime minister Charles Haughey.

No tax was paid on the money, which was routed through offshore accounts.

The firm also audited a company owned by former Irish government minister Michael Lowry, who was paid more than #500,000 tax free on Dunne’s instructions.

Dunnes Stores also picked up a #400,000 bill for the refurbishment of Lowry’s home.

Noel Fox, a senior partner in Freaneys who was mentioned in the tribunal report, has already appeared before the inquiry team. A friend of Haughey’s, he acted as go-between in arranging the #1.3m payment.

The institute inquiry will consider whether he had a conflict of interest and if he acted in breach of its guidelines.

Related reading