News Courts

Saturday 29 April 2017

Denis O'Brien cannot call expert, court rules

Businessman Denis O'Brien Photo: Tony Gavin
Businessman Denis O'Brien Photo: Tony Gavin

Tim Healy

Businessman Denis O'Brien cannot call evidence from a US constitutional law expert in his forthcoming case alleging statements by TDs in the Dáil about his banking affairs breached his rights, including to a private life, the High Court has ruled.

Mr O'Brien claims Dáil statements by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty in May and June 2015 breached his rights.

He claimed these statements forced him to concede in the High Court in June 2015 a script which he sought to prevent RTÉ publishing concerning his banking affairs with IBRC was by then in the public domain.

The Dáil Committee on procedure and Privileges (CPP), in response to complaints by Mr O'Brien, later held neither deputy had breached the standing orders governing debate in the Dáil.

Mr O'Brien, who will give evidence in the case himself, claims there is no absolute privilege attaching to the TDs' statements on grounds including utterances in the House must not usurp the judicial domain.

His case is due to open on November 29 and, in a pre-trial application, he sought to call evidence from Professor Laurence Henry Tribe of Harvard Law School, an American constitutional law expert. The application was opposed by the CPP and the State.

On Wednesday, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said Mr O'Brien's case, including claims under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, is "rooted exclusively in his alleged entitlements under Irish law".

The case will be decided solely under Irish law and Professor Tribe's evidence is inadmissible, the judge ruled.

While Mr O'Brien's side argued this was a "unique and important" case raising issues of Irish law not previously decided, all cases are unique to their own facts and important to the litigants, he said. He awarded costs of the application against Mr O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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