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Businessman Denis O’Brien makes €420,000 settlement with Houses of Oireachtas to cover its legal fees


Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin

Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin

Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin

Businessman Denis O’Brien has made a €420,000 settlement with the Houses of the Oireachtas to cover its legal fees after his unsuccessful bid to sue the Irish parliament half-a-decade ago.

The telecoms and media tycoon has made the settlement more than five years after a court ruled that he would have to cover the entire costs of his unsuccessful High Court case against the Oireachtas after two TDs disclosed details of his banking affairs.

In May 2015, Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty and Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy disclosed details of Mr O’Brien’s finances under Dáil privilege.

Mr O’Brien subsequently took legal action against the Houses of the Oireachtas after an internal parliamentary committee decided not to censure Mr Doherty and Ms Murphy.

Details of the costs eventually paid to the Oireachtas by Mr O’Brien last year, which were disclosed to Ms Murphy under Freedom of Information, show that he settled a legal bill for €420,000.

These costs paid out by Mr O’Brien, inclusive of VAT, include solicitor fees of €178,855 as well as payments to senior counsel Michael Collins of €79,950, senior counsel Sara Moorhead was paid €92,250, and barrister David Fennelly of €61,500.

There was also an additional outlay of €7,444. These costs do not include what Mr O’Brien had to pay to his own legal representation in the case.

The case originated in 2015 when RTÉ attempted to publish a story about Mr O’Brien’s borrowings from the nationalised Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the former Anglo Irish Bank.

They included details of how Mr O’Brien had looked for more time to pay off loans of €320m that he owed the bank in 2013. He had already repaid €525m in loans.

Mr O’Brien sought a High Court injunction in April 2015 to prevent the publication of the story which would have revealed these details.

However in May of the same year Mr Doherty and Ms Murphy read out details similar to those RTÉ had attempted to broadcast, resulting in those details being reported by the media.

The Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges subsequently dismissed a complaint by Mr O’Brien, finding that the two TDs had not breached Dáil rules. Mr O’Brien then mounted an unsuccessful High Court action against the Oireachtas and his appeal to the Supreme Court which was dismissed.

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In a court decision in May 2017, Judge Una Ní Raifeartaigh upheld parliamentary freedom of speech and the separation of state powers. She ruled that Mr O’Brien had to cover the entire costs of the unsuccessful High Court lawsuit which had been heard over seven days in 2016.

She said the framers of the Constitution had created a strong set of privileges and immunities for parliamentary speech and the court did not have a role in policing such utterances.

There was no immediate response from the Houses of the Oireachtas press office, while a s spokesperson for Mr O’Brien could not immediately comment.

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