Sunday 20 October 2019

INM arguments against appointment of inspectors challenged

Holland had 21 previous convictions for offences including having a phone in prison. (stock photo)
Holland had 21 previous convictions for offences including having a phone in prison. (stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The corporate watchdog has rejected suggestions by Independent News & Media (INM) that the appointment of inspectors is not necessary following the departure of former chairman Leslie Buckley from the company.

Although INM's oral arguments against the appointment of inspectors will only be made today, they have already been set out extensively in affidavits filed with the High Court.

Brian Murray SC, for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), challenged several of the arguments being made by INM in his address to the High Court yesterday.

Mr Murray said INM had argued that the "person involved and responsible" was no longer with the company.

Mr Buckley, a central figure in all of the main corporate governance issues the ODCE wants examined by inspectors, quit as INM chairman in March.

But Mr Murray said: "There are a whole range of facts that have to be ascertained or determined in order for this matter to be settled."

Among the unanswered questions were, he said, who authorised the interrogation of INM data in 2014, who knew about it, what purpose did it serve and what was done with the information.

Mr Murray said other questions remained in relation to concerns surrounding the deal to buy Newstalk and a proposal for the payment of a fee to Island Capital, a company owned by INM's largest shareholder Denis O'Brien, for work done on the sale of INM's shares in Australian media group APN.

The barrister said INM had argued that the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) was already investigating the data breach.

However, he said there were significant limits on the procedural powers of the DPC.

For example, the commissioner cannot hold oral hearings to resolve disputed issues of fact.

He said INM had argued the company would be damaged by the appointment of inspectors.

But Mr Murray said there was a "pressing and substantial public interest at play" and INM's opinion did not displace the need for an investigation.

Mr Murray said that INM had characterised what had occurred as "a small number of historic events" which were individual and isolated.

But he said ODCE's evidence established a sequence of critical failures in the management of a public company with important public functions in the State.

Irish Independent

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