Wednesday 13 December 2017

TD vows to fight claim she defamed developer

NAMA builder suing over donation remarks

Ailish O'Hora Public Affairs Correspondent

FINE Gael TD Lucinda Creighton will fight claims she defamed a high-profile builder and party donor in the High Court.

The outspoken Dublin South East constituent is being sued by NAMA developer Michael O'Flynn after she criticised the Fine Gael leadership for taking donations from him while speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Donegal.

The Irish Independent has also learned that the case is coming to the courts after negotiations on a settlement broke down.

Ms Creighton, who has also been a critic of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, would not comment on the case yesterday for legal reasons. But sources close to her said she would fight the claims "and she will not be retracting her comments".

If Ms Creighton loses the case she could face a legal bill of hundreds of thousands of euro.

As Ms Creighton's comments were made outside the Oireachtas, she is not protected by the legal privilege that allows members to speak freely without the threat of court action.

They came after Mr O'Flynn sponsored a €1,500 golf fourball competition at the K Club earlier this year in a development that sparked widespread criticism of the Fine Gael party.

The Cork-based businessman has had debts of about €1bn transferred to NAMA -- all property loans above €5m, both performing and non-performing, are being taken into the agency.

At the summer school, Ms Creighton said: "We cannot, on the one hand, condemn Fianna Fail for entertaining developers in the Galway tent, while on the other hand extend the biscuit tin for contributions from high-profile developers.

"We need a politics that is about serving the people of Ireland, not simply about replacing Fianna Fail."

She then called for the donation to be returned and went on to say that all money received by the party from developers involved with NAMA should be given back.

"I don't feel comfortable about it and I don't think most of my colleagues in the parliamentary party are comfortable with (it)," she said.

Within days, Mr O'Flynn, who heads up O'Flynn Construction, lodged proceedings in the High Court to sue the TD for defamation.

O'Flynn Construction has €2bn in assets and is one of the best-known construction firms in Munster, but also has developments abroad, including student accommodation in the UK and Germany.

One of its most high-profile projects at home is the high-end Elysian Tower in Cork city, the country's tallest building at 83 metres.

Mr O'Flynn is also on the NAMA committee of the Construction Industry Federation and has said that while he is in favour of the agency, it should not be used solely to dispose of assets.

Irish Independent

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