Saturday 24 March 2018

Texts between Red Flag boss and TD 'go to heart of integrity of civil service'

Denis O'Brien.
Denis O'Brien.

Tim Healy

An exchange of text messages about setting up a confidential "non-meeting" between Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and a senior civil servant "goes to the heart of how we organise government and the integrity of the civil service", it was claimed in High Court proceedings.

Michael Cush SC, for businessman Denis O'Brien, said the text messages in 2015 were between Red Flag Consulting CEO Karl Brophy and former Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney.

He said the content of the texts included that now former assistant secretary of the Department of Finance, Neil Ryan, was prepared to meet Mr Martin to "give him some information".

Counsel said this was in relation to the sale of services supply company, Siteserv, by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) to a firm owned by Mr O'Brien.

Mr Ryan was on the management team of IBRC prior to its liquidation by the Government.

Mr Ryan has said through his solicitors that while a meeting took place with Mr Martin, there was no discussion in relation to Mr O'Brien or companies related to him, including Siteserv, Mr Cush said.

"For a senior civil servant to be involved in a confidential non-meeting is potentially a very serious matter and goes to the very heart of how we organise government and the integrity of the civil service", Mr Cush said.

Mr Cush was making an application to Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan to add Galway businessman Declan Ganley as a co-defendant in Mr O'Brien's action against Red Flag, various executives and some of its employees alleging defamation and conspiracy. The Red Flag defendants deny the claims.

He also wants to amend Mr O'Brien's statement of claim to enlarge the conspiracy claim beyond the contents of a dossier which he says Red Flag prepared on him in an effort to injure his business interests.

Mr Cush said the essential case to date is that the Red Flag defendants had conspired with a heretofore unknown client to injure Mr O'Brien by unlawful and lawful means.

His side now had information to suggest Mr Ganley is that unknown client and has always been a central part of the conspiracy. They hoped to show in the amendment of the claim that there was another aspect to the conspiracy.

This included that the 2015 text messages between Mr Brophy and Mr Keaveney showed there was an intention to disclose information by Mr Ryan, counsel said.

Mr Ryan, who is not a party to the proceedings, was assistant secretary until May 2016 when he became chief operating officer of Quaternion Risk Management.

The full evidence will be presented at the hearing of the case - but at this stage the court was only being asked to determine if the pleadings could be amended. Mr Cush will continue his application today.

Irish Independent

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