Sunday 18 February 2018

FF silent on claims about TD speech in O'Brien spat

Allegations PR company drafted a document for Galway TD Keaveney

ROW: Galway East TD Colm Keaveney is linked to speech
ROW: Galway East TD Colm Keaveney is linked to speech
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Fianna Fail has refused to comment on claims that a public relations firm accused of "conspiring" against the businessman Denis O'Brien drafted a speech for the party's TD in Galway East.

The allegations emerged during a High Court action for defamation and conspiracy that Mr O'Brien launched against the firm, Red Flag Consulting, last week.

The businessman, a main shareholder in Independent News and Media, took the legal action after he discovered a dossier on a memory stick that had been sent to him anonymously in the post.

On Friday, lawyers for Mr O'Brien claimed that one of documents on the dossier were "various" versions of a draft speech for the Fianna Fail TD Colm Keaveney.

The draft speech contained words and phrases that suggested they were written by the chief executive of Red Flag, Karl Brophy. Mr Keaveney did not return calls to the Sunday Independent this weekend while a Fianna Fail spokesman said the party would not comment on matters that were before the court.

The curious case of the businessman and the PR company that he alleges has been trying to do him down burst into the public domain last Wednesday when reporting restrictions on the case were lifted.

According to the evidence in the High Court, Denis O'Brien hired a private investigator earlier this year after what he believed was "a concerted campaign against him".

While the private investigator's inquiries were underway, Mr O'Brien received the memory stick in the post, which is now at the heart of his legal action against Red Flag.

He had the memory stick "forensically" examined by a specialist IT firm which the court was told traced the contents to Red Flag. As was later pointed out by Mr O'Brien's lawyers, the company is chaired by the former chief executive of INM, Gavin O'Reilly, with whom there is a "very public history" with O'Brien. Karl Brophy, whom O'Reilly once appointed as director of corporate affairs at INM, "blamed" Mr O'Brien for his departure from that company, the businessman's lawyers claimed, which Mr Brophy later retracted.

Last Tuesday, Mr O'Brien's legal team went to the High Court to seek what the judge later referred to as a "draconian" order - an Anton Piller search and seizure order against Red Flag's premises - which he did not grant.

However, Mr O'Brien was granted an interim High Court order preventing the public relations firm from interfering with or removing computer material from its offices.

The documents covered the Moriarty Tribunal, his tax status, and the recent initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Digicel which Mr O'Brien had decided to cancel. They included a draft speech for Colm Keaveney, which Mr O'Brien had forensically examined by Espion. It found that words and phrases used in that speech were "suggestive" of Karl Brophy contributing to that document. Mr O'Brien wanted to know who paid Mr Brophy to craft that, said his senior counsel, Michael Cush. The dossier suggested a "textbook conspiracy". On Friday, lawyers for Red Flag questioned how material from the firm's computers ended up on a memory stick sent to Mr O'Brien. It was a matter of "enormous concern" a lawyer for the firm.

Judge Colm Mac Eochaidh ordered that forensic imagery be taken of the information on Red Flag's computers. Two copies of that 'computer picture' are then to be placed in the possession of solicitors for both sides. The case will return to court on December 8.

Sunday Independent

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