Thursday 18 January 2018

Fianna Fail demands recall of Dail over 'silencing of the media'

Fianna Fail Party Leader Micheal Martin
Fianna Fail Party Leader Micheal Martin

David Kearns

Fianna Fail has asked for the Dail to be recalled in light of what it sees as “the silencing of the media in relation to Dail privilege”.

Micheal Martin said the Dail needed to sit to discuss comments about businessman Denis O'Brien by Independent TD Catherine Murphy yesterday and why no Irish media was allowed to report on what she discussed.

“We’re in unchartered water. Constitutionally the Dail provides for absolute privilege for parliamentarians to air matters of public interest, and for the media to report on such contributions. This principle is currently being undermined.”

Speaking on Newstalk Radio earlier today, the Fianna Fail leader said it was unprecedented that a matter of serious public interest in the Dail could not be aired or reported.

Mr Martin said Dail privilege had played an important role in Irish society, adding he could not “remember anything like this happening in living memory” and that the incident raised grave concerns for the independence of the Dail.

Yesterday Independent TD Catherine Murphy made new claims about businessman Denis O'Brien's banking arrangements with IBRC.

The subject of her remarks is at the centre of an injunction granted against RTE earlier this month and cannot be reported by the broadcaster.

Following Micheal Martin’s appearance on Newstalk's 'Lunchtime', spokesperson for Mr O'Brien James Morrissey insisted that all Irish citizens were entitlement to their privacy relating to their financial affairs.

Businessman Denis O'Brien owns Communicorp, which owns Today FM and Newstalk.

“Denis O’Brien is entitled to defend his reputation just like every other citizen in this country,” he said, before questioning the accuracy of what Ms Murphy said in the Dail.

"I think the most important matter here is that Dail privilege is a privilege and it should not be abused by any member of the Dail to peddle falsehoods."

Mr Morrissey went on to question why Micheal Martin had refused to debate him live on air.

"I wanted to debate with [him]... but he wouldn't because he knows he is on very thin ground. He keeps talking about facts as facts but he's just told everyone listening that it is absolutely acceptable for anyone in Dail Eireann to go into the Dail and say anything they want."

Separately, RTÉ revealed it plans to make a fresh application in the High Court on Tuesday in a bid to report Ms Murphy’s Dail statements.

It said it is disappointed that a court injunction issued on May 21 prevents the media coverage of this issue.

“RTÉ has consistently maintained that greater levels of disclosure is in the public interest; however we have complied fully with the court’s decision,” the state broadcaster said.

“We await the outcome of the judge’s ruling on 5 June as regards what level of detail in the court’s judgement can be disclosed.

“Lawyers acting on behalf of RTÉ have already raised concern about the scope of the proposed orders to be made by the court.

“RTÉ will also be making an application on Tuesday 2 June, for permission to broadcast statements made in the Dáil by Catherine Murphy, TD.

“Every effort will continue to be made by RTÉ to report on this matter as comprehensively as possible, as early as possible, within the limits of the law.”

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