Media blackout leaves taxpayer last to know Government plans

THE taxpayer is going to be the last person to know the intentions of Government under its sweeping new bank rescue laws.

The first use of the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act was to throw media representatives out of the High Court yesterday while leave was being sought behind closed doors to effectively nationalise AIB.

When a reporter asked for a brief adjournment to give media lawyers an opportunity of considering the proposed news blackout, the request was refused by Ms Justice Maureen Clark.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan sent lawyers to the High Court just after 9am to make an application “in relation to a financial institution”.

Barrister David Barniville SC, counsel for the minister, asked Judge Clarke to rule that the application be heard in private and to exclude the media from the proceedings.

Mr Barniville said the court had power under Section 60 of the Act, signed into law by the President Mary McAleese earlier this week, to have the proceedings heard in camera.

When Judge Clark asked if the in-camera application was still relevant given the nature of early morning news bulletins, Mr Barniville said the issues in the media were not the issues involved in the application.

The judge asked reporters to leave the proceedings and said the courts were “working our way through the legislation” and that it was appropriate to have it heard in-camera.

Irish Times journalist Mary Carolan asked the court for a brief adjournment to allow consultations with lawyers regarding the possibility of opposing the in-camera application.

Judge Clark said if she did so she would negate the powers of the minister if she allowed the preliminary application for a private hearing of the matter to be heard in public. She said she had been told the application before the court was a matter of commercial urgency.

A solicitor not involved in the application but who stated he intended keeping a watching brief for an interested party in the case, was also ordered to leave.

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