Tuesday 11 December 2018

Ganley now a defendant in O'Brien defamation suit against firm

Declan Ganley
Declan Ganley
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The High Court has made orders joining businessman Declan Ganley as a defendant in the conspiracy and defamation action being taken by telecoms and media tycoon Denis O'Brien against PR firm Red Flag Consulting.

Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan also made an order allowing Mr O'Brien to amend his plenary summons and statement of claim to include an allegation that a Government official was encouraged to disclose information about him, including information under the Official Secrets Act.

The allegation relates to a meeting between a former Department of Finance official and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Although the proceedings have been ongoing since 2015, Mr O'Brien last week sought to have Mr Ganley joined as a defendant. His application was based on new information provided by former Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney late last year.

Mr Keaveney swore an affidavit in which he stated his belief that Mr Ganley was the person who commissioned Red Flag to compile a dossier on Mr O'Brien. Mr O'Brien alleges the dossier was used as part of a conspiracy against him and contained defamatory material.

Mr Ganley opposed the application and denied being the client who commissioned the dossier. His counsel argued there was no actual evidence against him, merely the beliefs expressed by Mr Keaveney.

Mr Ganley's counsel, Mark Harty SC, also argued the case was statute barred as it was outside the two-year limit for defamations actions, which would have expired last October.

Read More: What is the Red Flag court case about?

Following the ruling, Mr Harty said he would need to take instruction from his client on the possibility of an appeal.

A spokesman for Mr Ganley said the businessman was not making any comment.

The ruling is the latest twist in the long-running case, in which Mr O'Brien has sued Red Flag, its chief executive Karl Brophy, chairman Gavin O'Reilly, director of client communications Séamus Conboy, account manager Brid Murphy, and account executive Kevin Hinney.

Ms Justice O'Regan said the thrust of the existing proceedings was that the defendants, together with an unnamed client, commissioned or compiled a report or dossier and undertook other activity with intent to injure Mr O'Brien.

She said Mr O'Brien claims the activity involved both lawful and unlawful conspiracy.

The judge said the proper approach in dealing with Mr O'Brien's application was to determine whether the case was stateable on the basis of his version of disputed facts.

She found the disputed facts must be resolved in favour of Mr O'Brien and that there was "some doubt as to the application of the statute of limitations".

The judge said it was appropriate to accede to the request to join Mr Ganley as a co-defendant.

Ms Justice O'Regan also allowed for the amendment of the pleadings. The amendment relates to a claim by Mr O'Brien that a former Department of Finance assistant secretary, Neil Ryan, who was on the management team of IBRC, was encouraged by Red Flag or Mr Brophy to disclose information about Mr O'Brien to Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin.

The allegation is based on text messages between Mr Keaveney and Mr Brophy regarding the setting up of a meeting.

Mr Ryan's lawyers admit a meeting took place but say there was no discussion in relation to Mr O'Brien or companies related to him, including Siteserv.

Irish Independent

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