Monday 18 December 2017

O'Brien wants three-judge High Court to hear privilege case

Legal bid: Denis O’Brien Picture: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Legal bid: Denis O’Brien Picture: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Tim Healy

Businessman Denis O'Brien wants a three-judge High Court to hear his case, alleging that statements made by TDs in the Dáil about his banking affairs are not absolutely privileged.

Yesterday, his counsel Michael Cush told the High Court he considered there were similarities between arguments to be advanced in Mr O'Brien's case concerning the extent of Dáil privilege, and those being made in the action by former Rehab CEO Angela Kerins.

Mr O'Brien claims there is no such absolute privilege, on grounds including that utterances in the House must not usurp the judicial domain, and must be linked to the legislative process, Mr Cush said.

If those claims are upheld by the courts, it will have far-reaching consequences for proceedings in the Oireachtas.

Ms Kerins' case is being heard by a three-judge court and the court may consider it appropriate a three-judge court should also hear Mr O'Brien's case, which is listed for hearing on November 29, counsel said.

He was addressing the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, just as Ms Kerins case' was about to resume yesterday.

Mr O'Brien's case - against the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) and State - raises issues as to whether statements made in the Dáil by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty about his banking affairs with IBRC attracted absolute privilege, Mr Cush said. Mr O'Brien was contending there was no such absolute privilege.

The CPP held neither TD had breached the standing orders governing debate in the Dáil.

Sara Moorhead SC, for the CPP, and Maurice Collins SC, for the State, both said they wanted to see the formal written submissions of Mr O'Brien's side before outlining their position.

Mr Cush said submissions would be completed next week.

Mr Justice Kelly said they would be considered by court before a decision was made whether Mr O'Brien's action would be heard by three judges.

The judge also asked John Rogers SC, for Ms Kerins, whether he considered there were similar arguments being advanced in the two cases.

Mr Rogers said it seemed Mr O'Brien's case was different as it concerned statements made in the Dáil chamber while Ms Kerins' case related to statements of the PAC.

Irish Independent

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