Tuesday 24 April 2018

Chilling threats made to shoot Denis O'Brien and slit his throat

Businessman Denis O’Brien leaves the Four Courts after giving evidence in his High Court action. Photo: Collins Courts
Businessman Denis O’Brien leaves the Four Courts after giving evidence in his High Court action. Photo: Collins Courts

Shane Phelan and Andrew Phelan

Businessman Denis O'Brien has said he was sent threats that his throat would be slit and that he would be shot in the head.

The media and telecoms tycoon told a court in a written submission of the chilling threats, which he received just weeks after a TD spoke about his banking arrangements with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) in the Dáil.

Catherine Murphy. Photo: Tom Burke
Catherine Murphy. Photo: Tom Burke
Pearse Doherty. Photo: Tom Burke

In papers filed with the High Court, Mr O'Brien said he received an email on May 31, 2015, referring to him and his family.

He said it "expressed the desire that we would die in our sleep that night".

The affidavit continued: "It also contained the chilling fantasy the sender had about slitting my throat."

On the same day, Mr O'Brien said an individual who claimed to have been a member of the French Foreign Legion posted under a photograph of him on Facebook: "I'm pretty good with a sniper rifle and this c***'s got a big head."

A different person then posted a picture of Mr O'Brien with former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes with the comment: "7.62, .50, 5.56… "

Mr O'Brien said he had been advised this was a reference to military grade ammunition.

"I regularly receive nasty hateful emails, but I have never been the subject of anything approaching the level of this," he said in the affidavit.

"I was fearful for myself and for my family and reported these threats personally to An Garda Síochána."

The submission was disclosed after Mr O'Brien finished giving evidence in his legal action alleging comments in the Dáil by two TDs interfered with a court case he was involved in with RTÉ.

Read more: 'Line crossed' when media tycoon O'Brien's banking details revealed

Under questioning from his barrister, Michael Cush SC, Mr O'Brien confirmed he had received the death threats, but did not get into the detail of them.

He was giving evidence in an action arising out of statements by Catherine Murphy and Pearse Doherty (both inset) in the Dáil in May and June 2015 about his banking affairs.

In May 2015, Mr O'Brien was involved in injunction proceedings against RTÉ, to stop the station from broadcasting banking information.

But the court had heard Dáil statements made by the two TDs had the effect of putting all of the information at issue in the injunction proceedings into the public domain.

Mr O'Brien said the TDs behaved "recklessly and maliciously", but he had not sued them and it was unlikely he would do so. Instead his action is against the Clerk of the Dáil, the State and the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which cleared the two TDs of any wrongdoing.

The businessman said there was "nothing more confidential than banking details except maybe medical records".

"In this situation, my solicitors sought an injunction, a court order and that was granted. In parallel, two miles away in the houses of the Oireachtas, information that was part of that order was being disclosed," Mr O'Brien said.

"I thought that if you went to the High Court and got an order of the High Court, I thought that could not be unravelled by another arm of the State, in this case the Oireachtas."

Under cross-examination by Michael M Collins SC, for the committee, he said he felt that having details of his banking arrangements discussed in the Dáil was "wrong".

"If a person's banking files were stolen, as they were in this case, and given to a member of the Oireachtas, the Oireachtas should have given them to the guards instead of reading them out in the Oireachtas," he said.

"I am here today to see if there is a way for this to never happen again, for any citizen."

Mr O'Brien said it would be "a pretty extraordinary situation if the private details of a citizen's banking arrangements were disclosed publicly".

"Hopefully, if I am successful, this will never happen again," he said.

Opening defence submissions later, Mr Collins SC, said: "The freedom of expression of Dáil deputies is absolutely integral to the separation of powers." The case continues.

Irish Independent

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