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The genie is out of the bottle and can't be jammed back in

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Denis O'Brien pictured recently during an interview  at  the GETHealth, Global Education & Technology Health summit at the Printworks in Dublin Castle.

Denis O'Brien pictured recently during an interview at the GETHealth, Global Education & Technology Health summit at the Printworks in Dublin Castle.

Denis O'Brien pictured recently during an interview at the GETHealth, Global Education & Technology Health summit at the Printworks in Dublin Castle.

Denis O'Brien calls himself a proud Irishman and republican "with a small r". Let's take a moment to welcome that declaration. And now, let's invite him to waive his right to privacy.

Or, to put it another way, if Mr O'Brien was treated the same as everyone else by IBRC and has nothing to hide - why hide it?

Public confidence has been dented by the innuendo that he enjoyed a soft deal from the State-owned bank - favourable terms subsidised by taxpayers.

If he didn't benefit from special consideration, then putting his cards on the table would bring clarity to the situation.

The current confusion damages social cohesion in this Republic to which he expresses an attachment.

It would mean sacrificing his banker-client confidentiality, of course.

Nobody suggests he'd do this lightly after going to the High Court to defend it.

But questions are being raised about the liquidation of IBRC, when deals with borrowers were cut here, there and everywhere.

And public disquiet is mounting about whether high-net-worth individuals were offered advantageous terms compared with more humble borrowers.

Mr O'Brien's denies Deputy Catherine Murphy's allegations.

It would be helpful if he disclosed the terms of his IBRC loans.

Perhaps it's embarrassing if it requires Mr O'Brien to admit to horse-trading with a nationalised bank while Ireland struggled.

But there's a larger issue at stake here, and voluntary disclosure on his part would serve a useful purpose.

I suggest Mr O'Brien thinks big, acts big, and steps back from that injunction against RTÉ.

Having had his right to confidentiality upheld, let him now renounce it in the national interest - voluntarily putting all the facts into the public arena.

Let them be used to shine a light on the confusion surrounding deals done during the IBRC wind-down period.

In any case, the businessman's banking privacy has been compromised already.

The genie is out of the bottle and can't be jammed back in, no matter how many injunctions he seeks and is granted.

Not all of the details about his arrangements with IBRC are known. But some are. Not all of the details appear to be correct. But some are. So he might as well bite the bullet - speculation is more damaging in the long run.

This story isn't about to fade into obscurity because Judge Donald Binchy published his judgment yesterday.

To date, Mr O'Brien's relationship with IBRC has been discussed in the High Court, ventilated in the Dáil, pored over on social media, mused on with caution in mainstream media, tackled more vigorously by international media unaffected by Irish court rulings, and is a talking point for the man and woman on the street.

A window thrown open on the facts is needed to clear the air.

Here's something illuminating he wrote in his piece for the 'Irish Times' earlier this week: "I have never experienced the level of abuse, venom and hatred resulting from taking a stand to protect privacy in relation to my financial affairs." That should tell him something.

People are concerned about principles of fair treatment for all being upheld.

The spirit of republicanism hinges on equality between citizens. Rich and poor alike.

Arguably, any borrower is entitled to try to hammer out the best terms for his or her loans.

But IBRC had a responsibility to extract maximum value on behalf of the people. Did it do so? Mr O'Brien can help to answer that question.

There is another aspect to these fraught proceedings which concerns me.

First, though, I must put on the record that I am married to the RTÉ journalist whose attempt to broadcast a story about Mr O'Brien and IBRC led to the injunction.

I find it odd and concerning that Kieran Wallace, IBRC's special liquidator, joined with Mr O'Brien in the court action against RTÉ. Was that decision taken in the best interests of taxpayers?

Surely a commitment to openness and accountability provides the more useful service.

High Court representation is expensive and it makes little sense for two state-funded bodies to go mano a mano.

It strikes me it would have been more prudent - and less burdensome for citizens - if Mr Wallace had simply waited for the outcome of the case.

No doubt, Mr O'Brien is anxious that if he capitulates on his right to privacy here, it will be open season on his finances.

But he has surrendered some of his financial privacy already in that 'Irish Times' article. In it, he described repatriating $600m from US banks to two Irish banks as a vote of confidence in the Irish system during the crisis.

In fairness, that was patriotic. Outflow of deposits and plummeting confidence in Irish banks were dual problems, and his actions were useful in dealing with both issues.

So we see that he has yielded a certain amount of his privacy already, and offering up a further element would do the State some service. You could look on it as the republican (small r) thing to do, Mr O'Brien.

Irish Independent