Property developer ‘shocked’ at radio interview by Lucinda Creighton, court hears
Published 13/11/2012 | 17:42
PROPERTY developer Michael O'Flynn told the High Court today of his shock when he heard a radio interview two years ago in which a Fine Gael TD referred to him when talking about low standards in public life.
Mr O'Flynn (55) said he had never done anything in his life to bring down standards anywhere and to this day he was took exception to the remarks made by now Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton.
He was giving evidence on the first day of his defamation action for damages against the Minister arising out of a speech she gave to the MacGill Summer School on July 20, 2010, on the subject of "Standards in Public Life and Accountability" in which she said, among other things, that there can be no room in FG for "cute-hoor politics".
She also said FG in government must be "much more than Fianna Fail light" and cannot condemn FF for entertaining developers in the Galway Races tent while on the other hand extending the "biscuit tin for contributions from high profile developers who are beholden to NAMA".
Mr O'Flynn says in an interview she gave the same day to RTE Radio's News at One, she then went on to mention the fact that he had supported an FG fundraising golf classic a few days earlier in the K Club when he was one of the top ten indebted developers to NAMA.
She made further defamatory comments in an interview a couple of days later with the Irish Times, he says.
Mr O'Flynn says she caused those defamatory words to be published which meant, among other things, he was not upstanding, that Irish life had been tainted by him, that he was responsible for low standards in public office and that he had received large sums of money from Irish taxpayers through the NAMA process.
Ms Creighton denies the words were defamatory and were statements of an opinion honestly held. She relies on the defence of fair and reasonable publication and denies Mr O'Flynn's reputation has been damaged or that he has been brought into odium, ridicule or contempt as a result.
Mr O'Flynn, a married father of four from Cork, is chairman and managing director of the O'Flynn Group of companies which the court heard, at its height, employed around 1,000 people involved in retail, commercial, industrial and residential development. It now employs around 200 mainly in Ireland, Britain and mainland Europe.
When NAMA was set up by the previous government, some of his companies' loans were transferred to the agency which he said he "had no say over whatsoever."
He co-operated fully with NAMA and was in the final stages of the process, he told his counsel Declan Doyle. All his companies were trading, he said. He was heavily involved in activities outside work, including fundraising for UCC and Crumlin Childrens Hospital, he said.
While he had never engaged in political activity, he was a supporter of democracy and had supported "all parties bar one".
He responded to requests for support from parties rather than him approaching them. "I never supported a party to get something," he said.
He was approached by the national office of FG to support the K Club golf classic in July 2010 and paid €1,500 to be part of a team which included his local FG TD Michael Creed and GAA manager Mick O'Dwyer. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was opposition leader at the time, and Phil Hogan TD, were among the other teams at the event, the court heard.
There was extensive media coverage about his (O'Flynn's) attendance at that event with people "hiding in the bushes" at the K Club with the impression being given in the coverage that there was something wrong with him being there, particularly from one Sunday newspaper, he said.
"I felt the publicity around it should not have had to do with me, I was invited and the fact I was there should not have become such an issue it became."
When he heard Ms Creighton's interview on the radio, he was "absolutely shocked" because it was suggesting his presence there had brought low standards.
"I have absolutely never done anything to bring low standards anywhere. I took exception to it and several times since and took exception to (hearing it) again today".
He was also shocked he could be attacked in this way because he was not in public life or politics. He felt he was being "used as a pawn", he said.
"I treasure my reputation and you do not attack people in that way and try to stand it up for your own gain."
The hearing continues before a jury of five women and seven men and Mr Justice Eamon deValera.