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Saturday 20 September 2014

'Cynical' Creighton speech was attention-seeking, developer claims

Tim Healy

Published 14/11/2012 | 17:57

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O'FLYNN: (MICHAEL); FOUNDER OF O'FLYNN CONSTRUCTION re ACTION FOR DAMAGES ALLEGING DEFAMATION AGAINST LUCINDA CREIGHTON, MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, HIGH COURT, DUBLIN, (14/11/12).*****SEE HI CT STORY.PIC SHOWS: DEVELOPER MICHAEL O'FLYNN, FOUNDER OF O'FLYNN CONSTRUCTION, CORK ARRIVING at COURT YESTERDAY ( WED) FOR DAY TWO OF HIS ACTION FOR DAMAGES ALLEGING DEFAMATION AGAINST LUCINDA CREIGHTON, MINISTER FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS.(PIC: COURTPIX)

DEVELOPER Michael O'Flynn believed the main purpose of a speech given by Lucinda Creighton two years ago was not about the lack of independence of politicians but to to seek attention for herself.

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"The main message was looking for attention by mentioning something to create the sort of stuff politicians feed off of," he told the High Court today





He was under cross-examination on the second day of his defamation action against Ms Creighton, who is now Minister for European Affairs and who made a speech at a summer school two years ago, while a back-bench Fine Gael TD, in which she said, among other things, that there can be no room in FG for "cute-hoor politics".





She also said FG in government must be "much more than Fianna Fail light" and cannot condemn FF 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".





Arising out of that speech to the MacGill Summer School, she gave an interview to RTE Radio in which she expressed unhappiness that Mr O'Flynn had financially supported an FG fund raising golf classic a few days earlier in the K Club at a time when he was one of the top ten indebted developers to NAMA.





Ms Creighton denies she defamed him and says it was an opinion honestly held.





Asked by Paul O'Higgins SC, for Ms Creighton, if he agreed the message of the MacGill speech was that politicians should be more independent and not follow the party line, Mr O'Flynn said he had "a very cynical view of a lot of that speech."





"I have a very cynical view as to why it was made and what the real message and agenda was," he said.





In an earlier exchange with Mr O'Higgins, Mr O'Flynn disagreed there was anything wrong with supporting a political party.



"I look down there (at the courtroom) and there is her (Ms Creighton's) husband who is also a politician and I contributed to his campaigns in the past."





He said he gave money to FG "in good faith" when they asked him to enter a team for the golf classic. "I have given money and you are suggesting that someone somewhere should be analysing it and whether this money should have been accepted."





Mr O'Flynn also agreed earlier that his attendance at the golf classic attracted a lot of media attention at the time but he did not accept it was a "major national topic".





The Sunday Independent had published four pages on the event, on July 18, 2010, two days before the MacGill speech, but it was not all about him, Mr O'Flynn said.





He agreed his debt to NAMA was "north of a billion" and that NAMA had paid around €35bn for around €70bn in loans which had been made by certain Irish banks. However, he said he could only deal with his own business and he was not privy to what happened with other companies.





Asked by Mr O'Higgins about the fact that NAMA does not give out figures about which developers owe how much to it, he said people are entitled to confidentiality in dealing with the agency as they had done with the banks before the loans were taken over.





Being one of the "top ten" NAMA developers also meant those companies had large assets and incomes and it was a question of how good their businesses were, he said.





Being in the top ten did not bring some sort of "extra contamination" and he did not understand why this particular distinction was made because their indebtedness was a question of the scale of the business.





"Whether you are in the top ten or bottom ten, you are still in the same position because you are transferred into NAMA and you still owe the money."





Asked if any of those top ten collapse, then was it not the taxpayer who owed the money outstanding, he replied that was so if they collapsed. But the same top top also attracted outside capital and skill sets, he said.





He had substantial rental income to service his substantial borrowings, he said.





The court also heard that shortly after the Creighton radio interview and an article in the Irish Times, Mr O'Flynn sought an apology from her through his solicitors to have the matter sorted out as quickly as he possible.





There was correspondence between his solicitors and her lawyers and there were proposals and counter-proposals





He told his counsel Declan Doyle that her solicitors put forward proposals that she would issue a press release which she would carry on her website and also issue to the Irish Times, along with a contribution to Crumlin Childrens Hospital.





He refused to accept this and wanted an apology which would receive the same publicity across the media that the "attack" she had made on him had.





The hearing continues.

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