Friday 20 October 2017

Denis O'Brien will be only witness in his legal challenge against a Dáil Committee, High Court told

Denis O'Brien. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Denis O'Brien. Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Shane Phelan and Andrew Phelan

Businessman Denis O’Brien will be the only witness to give evidence in his legal challenge against a Dail committee, his lawyer Michael Cush SC has told he High Court this morning.

Mr O'Brien is due to give evidence on Thursday.

Mr Cush said the case was “unique in the history of the State” and “never before has a complaint been directed to utterances in the Dail.”

Mr O'Brien's legal action began in the High Court in Dublin this morning.

Lawyers for the telecoms and media tycoon will argue that statements made by TDs in the Dáil about his banking affairs breached his rights.

Mr O’Brien has made the allegation in relation to statements made by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty in the Dáil in May and June 2015.

The two TDs made claims about Mr O'Brien's banking affairs with IBRC after he secured an injunction preventing RTÉ from broadcasting such information.

Mr O'Brien claims his rights were breached as he was forced to concede in the High Court in June 2015 that the matters subject to the injunction were by then in the public domain.

The Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP), in response to complaints by Mr O’Brien, later found neither TD had breached the standing orders governing debate in the Dáil.

He is suing the committee, the clerk of the Dáil, and the Attorney General.

The case is likely to centre on Article 15 of the Constitution, which states that TDs and senators “shall not, in respect of any utterance in either House, be amenable to any court or any authority other than the House itself”.

In effect, this means that a TD or senator cannot be sued for anything they say in the Oireachtas.

But Mr O’Brien claims there is no absolute privilege attaching to the statements made by the two TDs, on grounds including utterances in the House must not usurp the judicial domain.

Ms Murphy and Mr Doherty made reference to alleged banking arrangements when questioning the purchase by Mr O’Brien’s Millington company of Siteserv, a firm involved in the installation of water meters and now known as Actavo.

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