Monday 21 May 2018

Seven INM board members file sworn statements responding to ODCE application

Independent House, Talbot Street, Dublin
Independent House, Talbot Street, Dublin

Tim Healy

SEVEN members of the Board of Independent News and Media (INM) have filed sworn statements responding to the application by the State's corporate watchdog for the appointment of inspectors to investigate the conduct of the media group's affairs.

A former director, Jerome Kennedy, and INM's IT director in Ireland, Gerry Wilde, have, according to the court's website, also sworn affidavits.

The Board members who have sworn affidavits are INM CEO Michael Doorly, Dr Len O'Hagan, Paul Connolly, Catriona Mullane, Terence Buckley, John Bateson and Seamus Taaffe. Mr Bateson and Mr Taaffe were appointed to the INM Board on March 1st last.

All nine affidavits were filed in the High Court central office this week. Seven were filed on Tuesday while those by Mr Connolly and Mr Wilde were filed on Wednesday.

The High Court was told on Monday that INM is opposing the application by the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ian Drennan, for appointment of two inspectors appointed to investigate whether INM's affairs have been conducted in an unlawful manner or one unfairly prejudicial to some part of its members.

Mr Drennan says he is concerned the range of "potentially unlawful conduct" that may have taken place within INM is "extensive" and contends there is a “compelling public interest” for inspectors to be appointed.

INM, which employs more than 800 people, is opposing inspectors and is also seeking judicial review of the application by Mr Drennan, made following a year long investigation by his office arising from protected disclosures in 2016 and 2017 of INM’s former CEO Robert Pitt, and a 2016 protected disclosure by Chief Financial Officer Ryan Preston.

INM argues, given the impact on INM of any appointment of inspectors, it should have had been given notice of the Director’s intention to seek inspectors and an opportunity to make submissions before the application was brought. It claims its rights to fair procedures and natural and constitutional justice were breached and wants orders quashing the ODCE decision to seek the inspectors’ appointment.    

INM has also said it is co-operating with the Data Protection Commissioner in her investigation into data protection issues.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, has directed the judicial review matter should be heard on May 9th. He will continue making orders in the interim aimed at progressing the ODCE application which can proceed only if INM loses the judicial review.

The judge will decide next Tuesday, unless the parties resolve the issue beforehand,  whether certain material contained in Mr Drennan's detailed affidavit, filed on March 23rd, is legally privileged. INM says it had an agreement with the ODCE concerning the use of certain material and maintains some material should not have been included in the affidavit.

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