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Forget the Lottery, here are THE TRIBUNAL MILLIONAIRES; EXCLUSIVE Total legal fees may pass EUR1billion Cash could be used on nurses & teachers.

Byline: BY EOIN REYNOLDS

THESE are two of the fat cat legal eagles who have earned millions of taxpayers' cash through the corruption tribunals.

The EUR4.5million Patricia Dillon has lifted and the EUR5.5million that Des O'Neill is expected to walk away with could employ dozens of extra gardai, nurses or teachers.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan warned the highly-paid barristers to wrap up their work as quickly as possible in a bid to slash the massive bills.

But after 10 years, other top earners such as John Coughlan and Jerry Healy have already bagged more than EUR7.5million each.

Working on the Moriarty Tribunal investigating off-shore bank accounts, these law experts have been coining EUR2,500 for a day's work.

The total cost could pass EUR1billion with much of that going in lawyers' fees.

With the end now in sight value for money for taxpayers is again under scrutiny.

Mr Coughlan's total tribunal wages could pay for three gardai for 40 years. Four indemand primary or secondary teachers could have been contracted for the same time.

In the under resourced health service, you could pay four senior nurses for 40 years for less than EUR7.4million.

Alternatively, seven muchneeded, life-saving CT scanners could have been bought.

While the EUR2,500 daily fee demanded by tribunal barristers is the norm, others in the profession are envious.

Other barristers don't get to work in court for as many days as the tribunal lawyers and don't expect to be paid EUR2,500 as an average daily wage. But after the Government was unsuccessful when it tried to slash their daily take-home pay in 2004 lawyers challenged the move.

They insisted they are worth every cent of their daily wage.

The Government was forced to back down, fearing the tribunal work would be lost if barristers downed tools.

Over at the Mahon Tribunal, where Bertie Ahern's finances have come under the microscope, the lawyers are also pocketing a fortune.

Famed for his exchanges with the former Taoiseach, counsel Des O'Neill is the top earner.

Only the Lotto can claim to have created more millionaires during the past 10 years than the tribunals at Dublin Castle.

Nine women and 11 men have joined Ireland's list of millionaires after hopping on the legal gravy train.

Among them are Jacqueline O'Brien who made more than EUR5million from Moriarty.

During the last count in April this year Stephen McCullough had totted up EUR991,852.

But he can expect to be a fully paid up member of the Millionaire's Club when the Tribunal finally winds up some time next year.

EUR4.5m That's how much Patricia Dillon earned from Moriarty

EUR5.5m Des O'Neill is the top earner at same Tribunal

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 15, 2008
Words:457
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