Monday 19 February 2018

Independent TD Catherine Murphy 'stands by sources' as businessman Denis O'Brien lodges complaint

Ms Murphy told the Irish Independent she stood by her claims on 'numerous occasions'
Ms Murphy told the Irish Independent she stood by her claims on 'numerous occasions'
Businessman Denis O'Brien
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Independent TD Catherine Murphy is facing an Oireachtas investigation over accusations she abused Dáil privilege by making claims about businessman Denis O'Brien's personal banking affairs.

Mr O'Brien yesterday lodged a complaint with the Ceann Comhairle's office, as a High Court judge cleared the way for media outlets to report Ms Murphy's claim that the businessman received "extremely favourable" interest rates on his loans with the Irish Bank Resolution Company (IBRC).

The move comes as Mr O'Brien's legal team also prepared a legal action against the State seeking clarification on the separation of powers between the judiciary and the Oireachtas. Justice Donald Binchy will today publish the injunction he granted Mr O'Brien, which stopped RTÉ from broadcasting details of his banking arrangements.

However, RTÉ will lodge a further application with the courts on Friday seeking to clarify the extent of the injunction and the impact it will have on future broadcasts.

Statement made by Catherine Murphy in the Dail on May 28th: ‘This is an issue for the whole House. It is an issue of serious public concern’ 

RTÉ's lawyers will claim there is a fresh case of public interest stemming from Mr O'Brien's claim that Ms Murphy gave false information to the Dáil.

In a statement last night, Mr O'Brien welcomed Justice Binchy's decision - but accused Ms Murphy of "peddling material deliberately falsified".

"I fully accept Dáil privilege. But equally, I staunchly believe that it is one that should not be used for disseminating untruths by anyone for the combined motives of denigration of an individual and political advancement," he said.

He also claimed Ms Murphy had not said she "categorically and unequivocally" stands over the information she read into the Dáil record.

However, Ms Murphy told the Irish Independent she stood by her claims on "numerous occasions". "I can't say it any different way - I stand by my sources and I believe them to be reliable and robust," she added.

Mr O'Brien warned Ms Murphy he would write to Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett to complain she breached Dáil Standing Orders when she detailed his bank affairs.

Mr Barrett's office received the complaint yesterday and it will now be forwarded to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privilege (CPP), which will reach a decision on whether Ms Murphy broke Dáil rules. Ms Murphy said she has not been contacted by the Ceann Comhairle or the CPP.

Mr O'Brien's counsel Michael Cush SC told the High Court Ms Murphy's speech was "in flagrant breach" and "in conscious disregard" of Standing Order 57 by making comments on a case that was before the courts.


However, Justice Binchy said it was never his intention that an injunction he granted Mr O'Brien would stop the media reporting comments made under Dáil privilege.

A Government spokesman said the judge's clarification reaffirmed that the right of Oireachtas members to exercise privilege is constitutionally protected. "It is important that right is exercised with responsibility and in the public interest and that media are free to report fairly on such statements," he said.

RTÉ welcomed the clarification but acknowledged the station was still prevented from broadcasting Mr O'Brien's confidential banking information.

"RTÉ very much welcomes the fact the judge clarified that both comments made in the Dáil in the past and future comments in the Dáil are covered by privilege, and that media, including RTÉ, are free to report them," a spokesperson added.

Irish Independent

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