independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Creighton faces hefty bill as defamation case is settled

Lucinda Creighton faces a substantial legal bill after the settlement of developer Michael O'Flynn's defamation case against her.

As part of the confidential deal, the Junior Minister for European Affairs has apologised to Mr O'Flynn and his family for any hurt and distress caused by her comments and has also agreed to pay a contribution towards his legal costs.

It is understood that Ms Creighton's contribution is less than the full cost of a typical two-day High Court defamation action, which legal sources have indicated would exceed €100,000.

The case arose out of a speech the minister gave on standards in public life at the MacGill Summer School two years ago when she was a Fine Gael backbencher. Mr O'Flynn claimed she had defamed him in the speech in which she said, among other things, that there can be no room in Fine Gael for "cute-hoor politics".

Ms Creighton told the Irish Independent she was really pleased that the case had been settled because it would allow her to get on with her work preparing for Ireland's EU presidency in January.

Costs

"It's over now, we have resolved the issue and hopefully we can get on with our lives," she said.

Ms Creighton confirmed she would be paying part of Mr O'Flynn's legal costs but declined to provide a figure.

Mr O'Flynn has said that he going to donate part of Ms Creighton's payment to Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.

During her MacGill speech two years ago, Ms Creighton said Fine Gael in government must be "much more than Fianna Fail-lite" 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".

Later, in an RTE radio interview, she elaborated on her comments and expressed unhappiness that Mr O'Flynn had financially supported a Fine Gael fundraising golf classic a few days earlier in the K Club at a time when he was one of the top 10 indebted developers to NAMA.

Ms Creighton denied his claims and said it was an opinion honestly held. But when the case was due to resume yesterday, Declan Doyle counsel for Mr O'Flynn, said it had been settled overnight and a statement would be read out on Ms Creighton's behalf by counsel Paul O'Higgins.

In it, Ms Creighton said she made comments during her speech and subsequently to the radio and the 'Irish Times' about Mr O'Flynn's attendance at the golf classic, in particular concerning low standards and wrongdoing.

"I am happy to confirm Michael O'Flynn is an upstanding developer and person who operates his business to the highest standards. He has not done any wrong and any suggestion to the contrary was not intended by me."

Mr Justice de Valera, who thanked and discharged the jury, said it was always better that matters like these be compromised rather than go on to what could be "a bitter end".

Speaking afterwards, Ms Creighton said she was really pleased they had managed to settle the dispute.

"I never held any ill will towards Mr O'Flynn and I had no problem clarifying my statements," she said.

"I made that clear two years ago but the fact of the matter is we have now managed to come to an agreement and I am very pleased with that," she said.

Irish Independent

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