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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Businessman Denis O'Brien's legal action against Dail Committee adjourned

Businessman Denis O'Brien
Businessman Denis O'Brien Newsdesk Newsdesk

A date may be sought later this month for the hearing of businessman Denis O'Brien's legal action against the Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges.

The case was adjourned today to allow for the further exchange of legal documents between the sides. The State defence must be provided by October 23rd.

Conor Power SC, for Ireland, said Mr O'Brien had raised a "novel" issue concerning whether Ireland is entitled to tell the Oireachtas not to interfere with the courts and he required time to address that.

Eileen Barrington SC, for Mr O'Brien, and Sara Moorhead SC, for the Committee, told the High Court Deputy Master Angela Dening about exchanges of legal documents between the parties to date.

The Deputy Master made directions for the exchange of legal documents between the parties and returned the matter for further mention to October 28th when a hearing date may be sought.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, previously said the case was "important but not urgent".

In his action, Mr O'Brien claims the committee breached his constitutional rights and interfered with the role of the courts.

He has sued the members personally and has also named Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett and Attorney General Máire Whelan in the case.

Mr O’Brien initiated his action after the committee ruled Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty had not abused privilege when they made claims against him in the Dáil.

The case was mentioned before the Deputy Master today for purposes of case management.

Ms Barrington, for Mr O'Brien, said directions had been given for delivery of defences and extensions of that time were sought by the defendants.

Agreement had been reached on terms for delivery of transcripts and the committee was to provide its defence within two weeks of delivery of those.

In the circumstances, Ms Barrington asked the case go back for three weeks after which they hoped to be able to seek a date.

Mr Power, for Ireland, said the issue against the State was a very novel one and not straightforward. There were "other actors in the picture", he said.

The Dáil has passed a motion to support the committee and allow it defend the action.

The committee has instructed the case be vigorously defended, in particular, the absolute privilege of members of Dáil Éireann in respect of remarks made in the House.

Mr O’Brien is seeking a declaration the 10 TDs on the committee are guilty of an “unwarranted interference" with the operation of the courts and have caused or permitted a breach of his constitutional rights.

He is relying on the guarantee in Article 40.31.1 of the Constitution to respect, defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.

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