Saturday 10 December 2016

High Court rules most of Denis O’Brien report can be broadcast

Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30

The majority of the report on IBRC dealings with Denis O’Brien (pictured) can be broadcast
The majority of the report on IBRC dealings with Denis O’Brien (pictured) can be broadcast

The majority of the RTÉ report on businessman Denis O’Brien and his arrangements with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation can now be broadcast.

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However, according to a High Court ruling, elements of the report, which refer to legal advice received by the bank, cannot be broadcast.

They still come within the scope of an injunction granted to IBRC against RTÉ in May.

The High Court had already refused an RTÉ application to lift the injunction in its entirety.

However, Mr Justice Donald Binchy agreed his order could be varied to reflect certain comments which were made in the Dáil.

Mr O’Brien’s legal representatives said they no longer opposed the publication of the script of the proposed RTÉ report. But IBRC maintained its objections to parts of the script it said referred to legal advice.

RTÉ argued that the issue of legal advice was already in the public domain, following comments made by Deputy Pearse Doherty in the Dáil.

But it agreed one paragraph of the script should not be published.

Judge Binchy ruled there was a difference between what the Sinn Féin TD said in the Dáil and what was in the script. He ruled the paragraph objected to by IBRC should not be published.

The judge made no order as to costs. The costs of the original injunction proceedings have been reserved pending a full hearing of the issue.

The judge said events had occurred that had changed the dynamic, and some of the rationale behind his original ruling, and neither RTÉ nor Mr O’Brien could be faulted for that.

He understood why RTÉ had brought the application it did, and why Mr O’Brien’s response had been evolving and changing, up to the last minute.

Lawyers for IBRC said RTÉ should not be constantly returning to court seeking pre-publication clearance for its reports.

However, Mr Justice Binchy said the alternative would be RTÉ running the risk of IBRC coming back in to court claiming that RTÉ had breached the orders made.

It has also been claimed by RTÉ that Mr O’Brien asked for more time to repay his debts to IBRC. It is claimed he had an alleged verbal agreement with the bank’s former CEO Mike Aynsley, according to the RTÉ report.

One month after the bank was put into liquidation in February 2013, it is alleged Mr O’Brien’s investment advisor David Sykes told the liquidator “Denis has received verbal confirmation” of an extension for his €320m loans from Mr Aynsley and another senior executive, Richard Woodhouse.

Mr O’Brien, at this point, had already repaid €525m of his borrowings and sought to renegotiate the repayment period for the outstanding €320m, according to the report.

RTÉ said it understands the bank’s previous management accepts it did have discussions with Mr O’Brien about extending the repayment period of his loans. But it does not interpret those discussions as having constituted an agreement.

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