Saturday 1 October 2016

Dáil opposes request for documents in O'Brien legal action

Tim Healy

Published 29/10/2015 | 02:30

'[Denis] O'Brien claims that remarks by deputies Murphy and Doherty amounted to abuse of parliamentary privilege and unconstitutional interference by the Oireachtas with the courts'
'[Denis] O'Brien claims that remarks by deputies Murphy and Doherty amounted to abuse of parliamentary privilege and unconstitutional interference by the Oireachtas with the courts'

The Dáil is opposing a request from businessman Denis O'Brien for voluntary disclosure of documents for his legal action over speeches made in the chamber.

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High Court Deputy Master Angela Denning was told there is a dispute over the discovery being sought by Mr O'Brien's side. No details of the documents being sought were outlined in court.

Mr O'Brien initiated his High Court action against the Dáil, the Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) and the State arising from remarks made under privilege, including by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty.

He claims the utterances were allowed to be made in breach of his rights of privacy and access to the courts under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights; his right to fair procedures; and of the standing orders regulating debate in the Oireachtas.

This amounted to "unwarranted interference" by the Oireachtas with the operation of the courts, it is alleged. The claims are denied.

Mr O'Brien alleges that Dáil utterances by deputies Murphy and Doherty had prejudiced, and effectively decided, his pending action against RTÉ.

He complained that both TDs made their speeches after he began proceedings against RTÉ on April 30, aimed at restraining publication of details of his banking affairs with IBRC.

Eileen Barrington SC, for Mr O'Brien, said her side was seeking voluntary discovery of documents, but was told this would not be forthcoming.

Sara Moorhead SC, for the Dáil, said there were "significant issues" involved which would take time to address.

Her side would not be making voluntary discovery and Mr O'Brien's side would have to seek discovery orders, which the State would oppose.

There was "nothing particularly urgent" about the proceedings, counsel added.

The Deputy Master fixed February 9 to deal with discovery applications.

Mr O'Brien claims that remarks by deputies Murphy and Doherty amounted to abuse of parliamentary privilege and unconstitutional interference by the Oireachtas with the courts.

Concede

It is claimed that these led to his being forced to concede in court last June 10 that the entire script that he had sought to prevent RTÉ publishing, and which he had also successfully injuncted, was by then in the public domain.

His lawyers formally complained on his behalf from May 28 to the Ceann Comhairle and Deputy Ceann Comhairle, initially about Ms Murphy's actions and later also about the actions of Mr Doherty.

On June 11, the lawyers learned from an 'Irish Times' report that their complaint about Ms Murphy was rejected.

Mr O'Brien also alleges, as far as he is aware, that the CPP had received no submissions from either TD in relation to his complaints before making findings. If it had, he was given no opportunity to respond to such submissions.

Irish Independent

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