Wednesday 20 March 2019

Ex-editor denies 'Post' front page put O'Brien into 'bad company'

Denis O’Brien at the Four Courts yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Denis O’Brien at the Four Courts yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

Denis O'Brien was among eight men listed in a graphic alongside a front-page newspaper article headlined "22 men and €26bn" because Mr O'Brien is well-known and is, in football terms, "Barcelona", a High Court jury was told.

Ian Kehoe, former editor of the 'Sunday Business Post' ('SBP'), denied the graphic, which listed the names of eight men below the words "Top Secret", put Mr O'Brien into "bad company".

Mr O'Brien was there because he was the 10th of the 22 largest bank borrowers in the State in 2008 as identified in a report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), he said.

He "emphatically" disagreed the word "they" in a front-page strapline, "The files they don't want you to see", meant the 22 men and thus also meant Mr O'Brien, and said "they" meant the Government.

The articles did "no damage" to Mr O'Brien, "widely acknowledged to be the country's richest man", he said.

Mr Kehoe was the final witness in Mr O'Brien's action alleging defamation in separate articles in the 'SBP' on March 15, 2015.

The jury will begin hearing closing speeches either later today or on Tuesday, followed by the judge's charge, before they retire to consider their verdict.

Mr O'Brien claims the articles wrongly meant he was among a "gang" of 22 borrowers who "wrecked the country", they defamed him and injured his reputation.

The defendant, Post Publications Ltd, denies the words mean what he alleges, denies defamation and malicious publication, and has pleaded "fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest".

Luán Ó Braonáin SC, for Mr O'Brien, put to Mr Kehoe that the 'SBP', in order to be fair to Mr O'Brien, should either have left him off the list of 22 or divided the 22 "into the good, bad and ugly".

Mr Kehoe said the point of the articles was 22 people borrowed €26bn, it was factually accurate to say Mr O'Brien was one of the 22, and it would be "grossly unfair" to go along with counsel's suggestion.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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