Red Flag, Gatsby and the Dossier
Declan Ganley has been identified as the 'Client' in the gripping Red Flag court saga, writes Liam Collins
On Friday last, The Irish Times published almost a full-page interview with businessman and political activist Declan Ganley in which he claimed that he never had "personal animus" towards businessman Denis O'Brien, who recently had him "joined" in what are now "conspiracy" allegations in the High Court.
Mr Ganley, the multi-millionaire owner of telecoms company Rivada Networks, has been identified by former TD Colm Keaveney and public relations executive Johnny Fallon by the codename 'Gatsby' and has now become a principal figure in the acrimonious case in which it is claimed the public relations consultancy Red Flag and its principals, Karl Brophy and Gavin O'Reilly, and Mr Ganley conspired to damage the reputation of Denis O'Brien and his business interests.
Mr Ganley cut an affluent rather than Gatsbyesque figure pictured for the article, sitting on the sweeping staircase of his impressive stately home, Moyne Park near Abbeynockmoy, Co Galway, dressed in a blue suit with his chocolate brown Labrador dog and a gilt-framed Madonna and child painting in the background.
Lawyers acting for Denis O'Brien believe that Mr Ganley was the "client" who instructed Red Flag to compile a 'Dossier' about him and his financial activities.
In an affidavit opened in court, Diarmuid O'Comhain of Eames Solicitors said that information disclosed by Colm Keaveney on October 13, 2017 revealed that the 2015 'Dossier' was "amended and updated from time to time to cause maximum damage to the plaintiff (O'Brien)" and the "imminent IPO" (initial public offering) of his Caribbean telecom company Digicel, which was abandoned.
Speaking with Mark Paul of The Irish Times, Mr Ganley said: "I've never had personal animus for him. I don't carry grudges because they're too heavy."
That's not the way Mr O'Brien's legal team see it.
"It is evident from this (affidavits by Colm Keaveney TD and public relations executive Johnny Fallon) that the compilation of the Dossier was merely part of a much wider conspiracy to defame and injure the plaintiff. The named defendants spent the period of about 22nd April, 2015 to 9th June, 2015, sending Mr Keaveney a variety of written and other communications which were calculated to induce him to make statements about the plaintiff under the cloak of parliamentary privilege," says O'Comhain's affidavit. "The defendants were engaged in the extensive briefing of journalists and politicians against the plaintiff."
These claims were backed up by an extensive series of texts between Karl Brophy and the then Fianna Fail TD, Colm Keaveney, in which the TD was briefed about Mr O'Brien and his business dealing with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) and provided with Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and had a speech he was due to deliver in the Dail extensively amended by "spinners" (to use their own description) Karl Brophy and another senior figure in Red Flag, Seamus Conboy.
"There is going to be a lot of the same stuff rattled off over and over this evening," Seamus Conboy told Keaveney when he emailed back their version of the speech he should deliver in the Dail. "This edited version is written to be far more sound bite and coverage friendly than the rest of them." (Mr Keaveney did not deliver the amended speech, it came to light as part of the 'Dossier')
"Our interaction consisted of Mr Brophy communicating with me and providing me with 'information' in relation to the plaintiff which he wanted me to publish in parliament, under the protection of Dail privilege. In effect Mr Brophy wanted me to use Dail Eireann to attack the plaintiff using the information furnished by him. I can categorically state that in my 17 years as an elected representative that I never received a briefing of the sort provided by Mr Brophy and in respect of one individual," says Keaveney.
According to the amended statement of claim lodged by O'Brien's solicitors, Karl Brophy, Seamus Conboy and Declan Ganley "have had previous dealings with the plaintiff (O'Brien) arising from which they bear hostility and ill-feeling towards the plaintiff".
The case has now been listed for a further preliminary hearing on April 10, but it is expected to be some time before it comes to a full hearing, during which exchanges between Neil Ryan, a former Assistant Secretary with the Department of Finance who was seconded to the IBRC and the Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, could have a crucial bearing.
In his affidavit Mr O'Comhain states: "The defendants (Red Flag) encouraged and assisted the former assistant secretary general of the Department of Finance, Mr Neil Ryan, to disclose information of and concerning the plaintiff which disclosure amounts to a breach of the Official Secrets Act, 1963 and a breach of confidence. The defendants made arrangement with Mr Keaveney in text messages to have Mr Ryan meet with the leader of Fianna fail Mr Michael Martin and share information with him."
Meanwhile, The Irish Times has yet to publish a statement issued on March 27 on behalf of Denis O'Brien questioning "if there was any connection directly or indirectly between The Irish Times, its reporter Peter Murtagh and Red Flag or/and any other defendants in the High Court proceedings."
"In the interests of balance, objectivity and impartiality, it is incumbent on The Irish Times to deal with the matter in a fully transparent manner, immediately," it added. It is believed that legal correspondence between the two sides is on-going.