Thursday 19 January 2017

Oireachtas privilege 'should trump' privacy of Denis O'Brien's financial affairs - Former Attorney General

Published 01/06/2015 | 09:43

Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell

Former Attorney General Michael McDowell has said that comments made by members of the Oireachtas, under privilege, "should trump the private interests of Denis O'Brien in relation to business borrowings from a bank".

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"The words of parliamentarians are privileged wherever they're published but it doesn't absolutely mean that a parliamentarian can say anything they like and that anyone under any circumstance can repeat what they said with absolute impunity," he told Morning Ireland earlier.

"But I think that we're dealing here with a very different situation.

"Firstly, no court has ruled that newspapers cannot carry Catherine Murphy's speech on what she said in the dail about Denis O'Brien and his borrowings. No court has even attempted to deal with that issue."

Businessman Denis O’Brien
Businessman Denis O’Brien

Read more: Dispute over Dáil privilege takes new twist

"But a court order made between RTE and Denis O Brien seems to have the potential to prevent RTE from revealing the same information that they were meant to keep confidential, from whatever source, including Catherine Murphy.

"Denis O Brien's lawyers have contacted the media to impress upon them that it would be unlawful to publish Catherine Murphy's speech."

Three media outlets will tomorrow seek clarification from the High Court over the reporting of a Dáil speech by the Independent TD in which she makes claims about Mr O'Brien's relationship with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

Catherine Murphy Kildare North leaving court in Dublin today.
15/5/'07 Catherine Murphy Kildare North leaving court in Dublin today. PIC COLLINS PHOTOS

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Mr Mc Dowell said that "media organisations have a choice".

"They can either take their own advice and publish it or either go to the High Court and get clarification on it," he told the RTE radio show.

"Oireachtas privilege over comments wherever published should trump the private interests of Denis O Brien in relation to business borrowings from a bank. I believe that." 

"The court will probably say that the order did not extend to the application of whether or not to cover Catherine Murphy's speech.

"The second thing that will probably be acknowledged is that the speech is now in the public domain and that it would be absurd and futile for some media in Ireland not to report it."

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