Thursday 27 July 2017

O'Brien to take stand in row over 'interference' by TDs in legal action

Businessman Denis O’Brien. Photo: Bloomberg
Businessman Denis O’Brien. Photo: Bloomberg

Shane Phelan and Andrew Phelan

Businessman Denis O'Brien will give evidence today in his High Court action alleging comments in the Dáil by two TDs interfered with a court case he was involved in with RTÉ.

Mr O'Brien is expected to argue that his constitutional rights were breached as a result of statements made by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty about his banking affairs.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, whose statement is at the centre of the action. Photo: Tom Burke
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, whose statement is at the centre of the action. Photo: Tom Burke

Lawyers for the telecoms and media tycoon have already claimed the TDs were "guilty of an unwarranted interference" in the RTÉ case, and had disregarded the constitutional separation of powers between parliament and the courts.

Barrister Michael Cush told the High Court that Mr O'Brien would be the only witness being called in the action and that his evidence would be short.

The action arises out of statements by the TDs in the Dáil in May and June 2015.

At the time Mr O'Brien was involved in injunction proceedings against RTÉ to stop it from broadcasting information about his dealings with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

Read more: Dáil failed to 'police' TDs who made claims about O’Brien banking arrangements, court hears

His lawyers have argued the two TDs put all of the information at issue in the RTÉ case into the public domain, thus determining the outcome of those proceedings.

Mr O'Brien has sued the clerk of the Dáil, the State and a Dáil committee which cleared the two TDs of any wrongdoing.

He is not seeking damages, but wants a declaration his rights were breached.

His lawyers claim that sufficient efforts were not made to stop the TDs from breaching his rights and that the handling of complaints he made was unsatisfactory.

The claims are denied by the defendants, who are expected to begin outlining their defence later today.

On the second day of the case yesterday, Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said the Dáil had a responsibility "to properly police" TDs in statements they make in regard to ongoing court cases.

"If it had properly enforced Standing Order 57, presumably this wouldn't have happened," he said.

The standing order, or Dáil rule, referred to by Mr Cush states that matters should not be raised by TDs "in such an overt manner so that it appears to be an attempt by the Dáil to encroach on the functions of the courts".

Mr Cush said: "The house and the deputies have a constitutional obligation to have respect and refrain from trespassing on the judicial domain."

Irish Independent

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