Sunday 4 December 2016

Oireachtas committee vows to 'vigorously defend' members in response to Denis O'Brien legal action

Published 23/09/2015 | 22:44

TD Catherine Murphy
TD Catherine Murphy

An Oireachtas committee has vowed to "vigorously defend" its members in response to legal action initiated by businessman Denis O'Brien.

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The Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) today agreed to bring a motion before the Dáil to secure the support of members.

It is not known if there will be a debate on the legal action taken against each member of the CPP, as well as the State and the Attorney General, by the Mr O'Brien.

Mr O’Brien is believed to be taking issue with the CPP’s findings that Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when making allegations about him in the chamber earlier this year.

At a two hour meeting in Leinster House today, members were given a legal briefing surrounding the High Court action initiated by the billionaire.

It's understood that members were instructed not to make any further action against Mr O'Brien in the public domain.

However after the meeting, Ms Murphy released a statement strongly defending her actions.

"It is extremely disappointing that the National Parliament and elected representatives are having to obtain legal advice on foot of a threat to the constitutionally protected Parliamentary privilege which is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy," Ms Murphy said.

"I reject any accusation that I interfered with the legal process. At all times I carried out my job as a public representative in the public interest," she added.

There was widespread condemnation of Mr O’Brien’s legal action against the CPP after it ruled Ms Murphy not in breach of Dáil privilege when they highlighted the communications tycoon’s banking arrangements with the bailed out bank in the chamber.

Ms Murphy raised questions over whether Mr O’Brien received preferential treatment from IBRC.  Mr O’Brien denies this claim.

Ms Murphy had been highlighting what she believe are questionable transactions between IBRC and Mr O'Brien before news of the legal action surfaced in the public domain.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called the legal action a “threat to democracy”.

The Cork TD also called on Mr O'Brien to "back off" when the controversy emerged in the summer months.

Mr O’Brien’s lawyers claim the Oireachtas procedures do not prevent abuse of Dáil privilege.

The CPP members included Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe along with Fine Gael TDs Joe Carey, Martin Heydon, Dinny McGinley.

Labour’s Emmet Stagg and John Lyons, Fianna Fáil’s Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Independent TD John Halligan are also members.

Mr O'Brien is the largest shareholder in Independent News and Media (INM), which publishes the Irish Independent and Independent.ie.

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