Wednesday 22 November 2017

Lawyers to brief TDs on legal case taken by Denis O'Brien

Businessman Denis O'Brien
Businessman Denis O'Brien
TD Catherine Murphy

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Lawyers representing the Oireachtas will today brief TDs on the legal case being taken against them by businessman Denis O'Brien.

The legal action taken by the billionaire against members of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) will top the agenda at the committee's first meeting since the Dáil returned from its summer recess.

A beefed-up legal team, including a senior counsel and a barrister, will brief TDs and senators during a private session, the Irish Independent understands.

Mr O'Brien issued legal proceedings against the elected members of CPP over their decision not to sanction TDs who used Dáil privilege to detail his personal banking details.

Kildare North TD and co-leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty both used speaking time in the Dáil to highlight Mr O'Brien's banking arrangements with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

At the time, Mr O'Brien had a court injunction initiated against RTÉ over the broadcaster's plans to broadcast details of his dealings with IBRC.

CPP members will today be briefed by a beefed-up legal team on the legal challenge being taken by Mr O'Brien.

According to correspondence with the committee, seen by the Irish Independent, TDs will be briefed by a member of senior counsel, a barrister, and the Oireachtas legal team.

Mr O'Brien is believed to be taking issue with the CPP's findings that Ms Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when making allegations about him in the chamber.

The legal team is senior counsel Sara Moorhead and barrister David Fennelly, aided by members of the Parliamentary Legal Advisor's Office.

There was widespread condemnation of Mr O'Brien's legal action against the CPP after it ruled Ms Murphy was not in breach of Dáil privilege when she highlighted the communications tycoon's banking arrangements with the bailed-out bank in the House.

Ms Murphy raised questions over whether Mr O'Brien received preferential treatment from IBRC in his financial dealings. Mr O'Brien has consistently denied this claim.

Ms Murphy has consistently highlighted what she believes are questionable transactions between IBRC and Mr O'Brien, the largest shareholder in Independent News & Media (INM).

INM is the largest media organisation in the country and publishes the Irish Independent.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called the legal action taken by Mr O'Brien a "threat to democracy". After news of the legal action surfaced, Mr Martin told Mr O'Brien to "back off".

But Mr O'Brien's lawyers claim the Oireachtas rules and procedures do not prevent abuse of Dáil privilege and that the remarks made in the chamber were inaccurate.

Ms Murphy is adamant the claims are legitimate.

The CPP members include Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, Fine Gael TDs Joe Carey, Martin Heydon, Dinny McGinley, and Labour's Emmet Stagg and John Lyons. Fianna Fáil's Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Independent TD John Halligan are also members.

Irish Independent

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