Texts exchange "goes to the heart of how we organise our government", Denis O'Brien case hears

By Ann O'Loughlin

An exchange of texts about setting up a confidential "non-meeting" between an assistant secretary of the Department of Finance and Fianna Fail leader Mícheal Martin "goes to the heart of how we organise our government and the integrity of our civil service", it has been claimed in High Court proceedings by businessman Denis O'Brien.

Michael Cush SC, acting for Mr O'Brien, said the text messages in 2015 were between Red Flag Consulting CEO Karl Brophy and former FF TD Colm Keaveney.

Denis O'Brien

The content of the texts between the two included that now former assistant secretary in the Department, Neil Ryan, was prepared to meet Mr Martin to "give him some information", counsel said.

This was in relation to the sale of services supply company, Siteserv, by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) to a firm owned by Mr O'Brien.

Mr Ryan, who was on the management team of IBRC prior to its liquidation by the Government, has said through his solicitors that while a meeting took place with Mr Martin, there was no discussion in relation to Mr O'Brien or companies related to him, including Siteserv, Mr Cush said.

"For a senior civil servant to be involved in a confidential non-meeting is potentially a very serious matter and goes to the very heart of how we organise government and the integrity of the civil service", Mr Cush said.

Mr Cush was making an application to Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan to add Galway businessman Declan Ganley as a co-defendant in Mr O'Brien's action against Red Flag, various executives and some of its employees alleging defamation and conspiracy.

The Red Flag defendants deny the claims.

Declan Ganley

He also wants to amend Mr O'Brien's statement of claim to enlarge the conspiracy claim beyond the contents of a dossier which he says Red Flag prepared on him in an effort to injure his commercial and business interests.

Mr Cush said the essential case to date is that the Red Flag defendants had conspired with a heretofore unknown client to injure Mr O'Brien by unlawful and lawful means.

His side now had information to suggest Mr Ganley is that unknown client and has always been a central part of the conspiracy. They hoped to show in the amendment of the claim that there was another aspect to the conspiracy

This included that the 2015 text messages between Mr Brophy and Mr Keaveney showed there was an intention to disclose information by Mr Ryan, counsel said.

Mr Ryan, who the court heard is not a party to the proceedings, was assistant secretary until May 2016 when he became chief operating officer of Quaternion Risk Management.

The defendants also engaged in a campaign of briefings to politicians and journalists with the specific intention to cause injury to Mr O'Brien, Mr Cush said.

This was new because it has nothing to do with the dossier, he said. It was all part of the conspiracy alleged by his side and the reason an application had been brought to amend the statement of claim, he said.

The full evidence will be presented at the hearing of the case but at this stage the court was only being asked to determine if the pleadings could be amended. The issue for the court to decide is whether the amendment would withstand an application from the other side to strike out the proceedings, he said

Mr Cush will continue his application on Wednesday.

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