Wednesday 13 November 2019

Denis O'Brien seeks limited reporting restriction against RTE in High Court

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien

Tim Healy

Businessman Denis O'Brien claims he will suffer irreparable harm to the confidence national and international banks have in him if RTE is allowed broadcast a report about his private banking affairs.

Mr O'Brien said, in an affidavit to the High Court, there is also no public interest in RTE broadcasting details of his confidential banking arrangements with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

If broadcast, it would be a breach of his constitutional and European Convention right to privacy, he says.

RTE had information it obtained from a letter Mr O'Brien wrote to IBRC liquidator Kieran Wallace in 2013 about his private banking affairs, the court heard.

There was no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Mr O'Brien's part or that of anyone else.

Mr O'Brien is seeking an injunction preventing RTE from broadcasting the report which was due to go out on May 1 last but which has been postponed pending determination of the High Court proceedings.

Before the injunction application was heard, Mr Justice Donald Binchy ruled there should be a limited restriction on reporting of the details of the application until he (judge) had determined whether to grant an injunction.

It was agreed between the parties that restriction would apply to certain sections of RTE journalist David Murphy's affidavit which refer to details of what the proposed broadcast would be.

Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said under the agreed restriction order it would be permissible for the media to report Mr O'Brien is "a major debtor of IBRC".

It would also be permissible to report comments in the Dail of Deputy Catherine Murphy in which she stated Mr O'Brien's loans had expired  and referred to a letter to the IBRC liquidator that Mr O'Brien was seeking the same terms whereby IBRC allowed him to pay off the loans at low interest rates.  While there was an issue as to the accuracy of the TD's statements, the O'Brien side could not resist publication, counsel said.

Earlier, Mr Cush said Mr O'Brien stated in an affidavit that regrettably in the past his there been a certain amount of speculation concerning his private banking which made its way into the public domain without his consent.

However, information of a private and personal nature has not been published previously.  If it was, he would suffer irreparable harm and the confidence national and international banks had in him would be lost.

It would cause damage to him personal and financially, he said.  He has business interests across several sectors and deals with national and international banks and these institutions would not like to see details of how he dealt with his indebtedness in the public domain.

As a matter of law, there was not sufficient public interest in broadcasting this material, nor had it been shown the public interest outweighed his right to privacy.

Earlier, David Holland SC, for RTE, said his client could not consent to reporting restrictions which would inhibit ordinary reporting of the courts given RTE's public role.

Michael Collins SC, for IBRC, which has a separate but related case against RTE, said his client wanted reporting restrictions extended to any legal advice given to IBRC which is contained in the court documents.

The case continues.

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