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Denis O'Brien takes legal action over Dáil remarks

Billionaire Irish businessman Denis O'Brien. Picture by Julien Behal, Press Association
Staff Reporter

BILLIONAIRE businessman Denis O'Brien has begun legal action against the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission and the Irish State over remarks made in the Dáil about his banking affairs.

His lawyers told the President of the High Court in Dublin yesterday that Mr O'Brien wanted an early directions hearing in the case.

Mr O'Brien is seeking various declarations arising from speeches made in the Dáil by Independent TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty about the businessman's financial dealings with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

The businessman, who controls Independent News and Media and owns two national radio stations, is also involved in a separate legal row with RTÉ over attempts to broadcast information about him and the IBRC.

It is understood that in his case against the Irish State Mr O'Brien will argue that the TDs' remarks amounted to interference with the operation of the courts.

It is also understood he will argue that permitting the remarks to be made amounted to a breach of his rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr O'Brien's lawyer Michael Cush told Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns that the proceedings were against the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, Ireland and the Attorney General.

He said his client wants to establish the "correct demarcation between the role of the Oireachtas and the courts".

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns agreed to a preliminary hearing on July 1.

As in most other parliaments, legislators speaking in the Dáil are granted legal protection under parliamentary privilege.

The case is expected to raise questions about parliamentary privilege in the Republic.

Last week, Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath suggested Mr O'Brien should be called as a witness to the Republic's banking inquiry.

He said he has written to the Oireachtas inquiry into Republic's banking crisis about the prospect of calling Mr O'Brien and the request would be considered this week.

A separate commission of investigation, led by retired High Court judge Daniel O'Keeffe, will also look into the running of the state-owned IBRC.

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