independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Creighton accused me of low standards, developer tells court

Lucinda Creighton

PROPERTY developer Michael O'Flynn has told of his shock when he heard a radio interview in which a Fine Gael TD referred to him while talking about low standards in public life.

Mr O'Flynn (55) said he had never done anything in his life to bring down standards anywhere and to this day he took exception to the remarks made two years ago by Lucinda Creighton, now Minister for European Affairs.

He was giving evidence to the High Court on the first day of his defamation action against the minister arising out of a speech she gave to the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal on July 20, 2010 on the subject of "standards in public life and accountability" in which she said, among other things, that there could be no room in Fine Gael for what she referred to as "cute-hoor politics".

Ms Creighton also said that Fine Gael in government must be "much more than Fianna Fail light" and could not condemn Fianna Fail for entertaining developers in the Galway Races tent while on the other hand extending the "biscuit tin for contributions from high-profile developers who are beholden to NAMA".

Mr O'Flynn says that in an interview she gave the same day to RTE Radio's 'News at One' Ms Creighton then went on to mention the fact that he (O'Flynn) had supported a Fine Gael fundraising golf classic a few days earlier in the K Club when he was one of the top 10 indebted developers to NAMA.

He alleged that she made further defamatory comments in an interview a couple of days later with the 'Irish Times'.

Mr O'Flynn said she caused those defamatory words to be published, which meant, among other things, he was not upstanding, that Irish life had been tainted by him, that he was responsible for low standards in public office and that he had received large sums of money from Irish taxpayers through the NAMA process.

Ms Creighton denies the words were defamatory and were statements of an opinion honestly held. She relies on the defence of fair and reasonable publication and denies Mr O'Flynn's reputation has been damaged or that he has been brought into odium, ridicule or contempt as a result.

Mr O'Flynn, a married father-of-four from Cork, is chairman and managing director of the O'Flynn Group of companies.

When NAMA was set up by the previous government, some of his companies' loans were transferred to the agency. However, Mr O'Flynn said he had "no say whatsoever" over this.

He had co-operated fully with NAMA and was in the final stages of the process, he told his counsel Declan Doyle. All his companies were trading and he was heavily involved in activities outside work, including fundraising for University College Cork and Crumlin Children's Hospital.

Mr O'Flynn said that while he had never engaged in political activity, he was a supporter of democracy and had supported "all parties bar one".

He responded to requests for support from parties, adding: "I never supported a party to get something."

Mr O'Flynn said he had been approached by the national office of Fine Gael to support the K Club golf classic in July 2010 and paid €1,500 to be part of a team which included his local Fine Gael TD, Michael Creed, and the GAA manager Mick O'Dwyer.

'Shocked'

Enda Kenny, who was opposition leader at the time, and Phil Hogan TD were among the other teams at the event, the court heard.

There was, he said, extensive media coverage about his (O'Flynn's) attendance at that event with the impression being given in the coverage that there was something wrong with him being there, particularly from one Sunday newspaper.

When he heard Ms Creighton's interview on the radio, he was "absolutely shocked" because it was suggesting that his presence there had brought low standards.

"I have absolutely never done anything to bring low standards anywhere," said Mr O'Flynn. "I took exception to it and several times since and took exception to (hearing it) again today."

He was also shocked that he could be attacked in this way because he was not in public life or politics.

Mr O'Flynn added: "I treasure my reputation and you do not attack people in that way and try to stand it up for your own gain."

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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