O'Brien has every right to challenge Dáil ruling, says O'Dea
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea has broken ranks with his party leadership and defended businessman Denis O'Brien's right to launch a legal challenge against a ruling by a Dáil committee.
Mr O'Dea insisted that Mr O'Brien was constitutionally entitled to challenge a decision by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) relating to a complaint that the businessman made against Independent TD Catherine Murphy.
Mr O'Brien has lodged a High Court challenge against the 10 TDs on the committee, which unanimously found that Ms Murphy had no case to answer after she had outlined his alleged banking affairs with Irish Bank Resolution Company (IBRC) during a Dáil debate.
Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin called on Mr O'Brien to "back off" and warned that the legal action posed a threat to parliamentary democracy.
However, Mr O'Dea insisted that the telecoms magnate was within his rights to challenge the finding if he felt he had been wronged.
"Under the Constitution of Ireland, the CPP is not the final court of appeal on matters like that and you can have recourse from the courts, so what's wrong with someone using their right to have recourse from the courts?" he told the Irish Independent.
He added: "If someone offended by something said in the Dáil was a low-profile person who wasn't as wealthy or famous as Denis O'Brien, nobody would question their right to go to court.
"Consistently, we are told no one is above the law - but similarly, nobody is below the law either."
The Limerick TD also criticised the "hypocrisy" of Sinn Féin in dismissing a CPP finding against Mary Lou McDonald while insisting that Mr O'Brien should accept the finding made against him.
"It's nauseating to listen to a party who themselves disregard a finding of the committee as flawed, yet they question the right of someone else to challenge a ruling," said Mr O'Dea.
The CPP found that Ms McDonald had abused Dáil privilege when she named former politicians in connection with alleged offshore Ansbacher accounts.
Those named all denied the allegations, which had previously been investigated by a number of State agencies and found to have no grounds.
Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín said he "doubted" that Ms McDonald would take a legal challenge against the CPP ruling - but said he backed his party's vice-president's right to contest the finding. However, Mr Tóibín said Mr O'Brien should not contest the ruling made against him.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has given his backing to the CPP and Ms Murphy. Mr Donohoe said he "fully respects" the work of the CPP and insisted that Dáil privilege was an "absolute cornerstone of our democracy".
Renua Leader Lucinda Creighton called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton to publicly tell Mr O'Brien to "back off".
She said: "The idea that any type of chill factor could be imposed on our national parliament is unacceptable to me and Renua Ireland.
"I would call on the main protagonists in the house - the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, leaders of all political parties to call on him to back off."