Thursday 20 June 2019

O'Reilly fears personal data was accessed in alleged INM data breach

Gavin O'Reilly
Gavin O'Reilly
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former Independent News & Media (INM) CEO Gavin O'Reilly fears his personal data may have been accessed during an alleged data breach at the company.

The High Court has also heard the media group's former director of corporate affairs Karl Brophy fears information about journalistic sources, his pension entitlements and a medical examination may have been accessed.

Both men have applied to the court for permission to use corporate watchdog documents as part of lawsuits they intend bringing against INM.

High Court President Mr Justice Peter Kelly is to rule on the applications at a later date.

Both men claim their privacy and data protection rights were breached during an alleged "interrogation" of INM data back-up tapes in 2014.

They made applications to the High Court seeking to be allowed use material submitted to the court last year by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) when the watchdog successfully applied to have inspectors appointed to INM, publishers of the Irish Independent.

Mr O'Reilly and Mr Brophy were given access to some of the documentation last year, on the basis they would have to apply to the court if they wished to use it for a purpose not connected to the ODCE's inspectors application. Yesterday, they applied to be allowed to use the material in intended lawsuits against INM.

The ODCE did not object to the applications, but it was opposed by INM. Shane Murphy SC, for INM, argued the granting of the applications would set "a harmful precedent" as it would allow the applicants to short-circuit normal processes.

However, Niamh Hyland SC, for the former INM executives, said a great deal of the material her clients seek to use had previously been opened in court and reported upon extensively in the media.

She said it would be "wholly artificial" and lead to unnecessary costs if they had to start the process of seeking the documents again through discovery when they were already in their possession.

Ms Hyland also argued permitting her clients to rely on the documents was in the public interest given the serious issues which arise, including the freedom of the press.

Reserving judgment, Mr Justice Kelly said the applications gave rise to "an important issue" which could have repercussions for other legal cases.

INM has said the data interrogation, where back-up tapes were allegedly searched by external companies, was conducted at the behest of its then chairman Leslie Buckley.

According to the ODCE, the exercise was paid for by a company owned by INM shareholder Denis O'Brien. He has yet to comment on the matter.

The media group has issued legal proceedings against Mr Buckley, who has pledged to robustly defend himself.

Mr Brophy, who now runs public relations consultancy firm Red Flag, appeared on a list of 19 names the ODCE believes were searched for in the data. Mandy Scott, Mr O'Reilly's personal assistant at INM, was also on the list.

Irish Independent

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