Sunday 22 July 2018

TDs stand by Dáil privilege decision as O'Brien takes legal action

Denis O'Brien: legal action against Dáil committee
Denis O'Brien: legal action against Dáil committee
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

TDs are standing by their decision to reject billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien's complaint that Dáil privilege was abused when allegations were made about his banking arrangements.

Mr O'Brien is now taking legal action against members of the Dáil's Committee on Procedures and Privilege (CPP).

The move has resulted in Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin telling him to "back off".

Mr O'Brien is seeking to haul TDs and Senators before the High Court after the CPP rejected his complaint against Independent TD Catherine Murphy. The telecoms tycoon complained that Ms Murphy had abused Dáil privilege by using the chamber to detail his alleged banking arrangements with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

However, after his complaint was examined by the CPP, it unanimously decided Ms Murphy had no case to answer.

Mr O'Brien also lodged an action against the Oireachtas and the State over the same issue.

Independent TD and CPP member John Halligan is standing over the committee's ruling and said Mr O'Brien should take issue with the rules governing the Oireachtas, rather than with those implementing them.

"Our legal advice was to let it be and there was no censure to be taken against Catherine Murphy," he said.

"It's the Dáil and people are allowed say what they like under Dáil privilege. And until Dáil privilege is changed, we can't do anything about that."

"If she [Ms Murphy] was proved wrong, then that's a different story - but until then we can't take any action," he added.

Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg also defended the committee's decision. "Everyone has a right to take a legal action if they feel they have been wronged but I believe the action we took was correct," he said.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Martin said Mr O'Brien's latest action posed a threat to the "concept of freedom of speech in parliament".

"I would ask him to back off," the Fianna Fáil added.

"It's a very serious move on his part and it's wrong. I don't understand the motivation but he obviously feels wronged."

A spokesman for Mr O'Brien could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The clerk of the CPP, Noreen Banim, wrote to committee members on Friday, informing them Mr O'Brien had named them all in his legal action. They were advised no action was currently necessary and it is proposed they meet when the Dáil returns in September.

A constitutional crisis was sparked in May when Mr O'Brien insisted comments on his banking matters were covered by a court injunction and could not be reported by the media. But Judge Donald Binchy clarified the injunction granted by him did not cover comments made in the Dáil.

Irish Independent

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