Sunday 21 July 2019

O'Brien says that his spokesman contacted paper over its coverage

Checked overnight: Businessman Denis O’Brien. Picture: Collins
Checked overnight: Businessman Denis O’Brien. Picture: Collins

Tim Healy

Businessman Denis O'Brien has told a court his spokesman contacted the 'Sunday Independent' following an article published in 2012 concerning borrowings of himself and others from Anglo Irish Bank.

In his continuing action alleging defamation in 'Sunday Business Post' articles published in March 2015, Mr O'Brien said he wanted to correct evidence given by him the previous day when asked about the 'Sunday Independent' article. The article was published in April 2012 with a strapline, 'Anglo's Top 13 Buccaneer Borrowers'.

Mr O'Brien had given evidence on Thursday to the effect he believed he took no action over that. Yesterday, he told Michael McDowell SC, for the 'Sunday Business Post', he had checked that matter overnight and wanted to correct the record. After correspondence between his spokesman James Morrissey and the 'Sunday Independent', he believed he ultimately got an apology from group managing editor Michael Denieffe over the coverage, he said.

Yesterday was the fourth day of Mr O'Brien's action against Post Publications Ltd, publishers of the 'Sunday Business Post', in which he is seeking substantial damages over the articles, run over six pages. Their focus was what the 'Sunday Business Post' referred to as a "secret" report concerning exposure in 2008 of Ireland's banks, compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The report was provided to the government in November 2008 and obtained in 2015 by the newspaper but destroyed shortly after publication to protect the source who provided it. The 'Sunday Business Post' articles include a front page article headlined "22 men and €26bn" with a subheading: "The secret report that convinced Cowen the banks weren't bust."

Mr O'Brien claims the various articles wrongly meant he was among 22 borrowers identified with the downfall of Ireland and the bankruptcy of its banking system and injured his reputation.

The defendant denies defamation, denies the words complained of mean what Mr O'Brien says and denies malicious publication. It has also pleaded "fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest".

Yesterday, Mr O'Brien said he was shocked by the 'Sunday Independent' article but there were articles "every week at that time" in that newspaper and when he gave the answer he had on Thursday, he believed it to be true but had checked the matter overnight.

Irish Independent

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