Law clear on Dáil privilege, says State

Denis O’Brien has no constitutional right to “personal satisfaction” by having the courts declare some “impropriety” by two TDs in making Dáil statements about his banking affairs, counsel for a Dáil committee has told the High Court.

There is “no constitutional right to satisfaction” and there would be “appalling consequences” if the courts sought to examine or restrain statements made in the Dáil, Michael Collins said.

The Constitution made “absolutely clear” that Dáil statements, including by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, about Mr O’Brien’s banking affairs, cannot be examined by any court except the “court of public opinion”.

Mr O’Brien was essentially inviting the court to find some “impropriety” in the statements made but that “cannot be done”.

Article 15 states the only entity that can examine Dáil statements is the Oireachtas and that was done as the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) had heard, and dismissed, Mr O’Brien’s complaints about the statements, he said.

The constitutional, “and only”, remedy for an alleged gross abuse of privilege in statements on the floor of the Dáil was the House itself and the court was not “a second court of appeal” for someone dissatisfied with the outcome before the committee.

Mr O’Brien was alleging a right to have the committee’s functions carried out in a particular way but there was no constitutional right to achieve satisfaction by seeing someone else being sanctioned “in the way you want”. There was also “no constitutional right to achieve some personal satisfaction by having your position approved of”.

Mr Collins, for the CPP, was continuing his arguments opposing Mr O’Brien’s action alleging that the two TDs “clearly disregarded” the constitutional separation of powers between parliament and the courts in their statements.

In his case against the CPP and the State, Mr O’Brien wants the court to declare the statements amounted to “unwarranted interference” in the judicial domain. He claims the committee failed to “properly police” the TDs over their statements, made in May and June 2015 when he had ongoing High Court proceedings against RTÉ seeking to restrain it publishing details of his banking relationship with IBRC.

In his submissions, Mr Collins said Article 15 conferred “express immunity” on Dáil statements and the walls set up by the Constitution “to repel judicial invaders” contained “nothing fuzzy or imprecise”.

The Constitution recognised TDs must have “certainty” about what they can speak about and cannot operate under a shadow of uncertainty and possible court scrutiny. That was why Article 15 provided an absolute “ouster”.

The declarations being sought by Mr O’Brien, including that the statements amounted to “unwarranted interference in the judicial domain, “cannot be made” because they would make the TDs “amenable” to the court in breach of Article 15, counsel argued.

“That cannot be done.”

The case resumes on Tuesday.

More on this topic

O’Brien ‘disappointed’ at second court defeatO’Brien ‘disappointed’ at second court defeat

Bitter irony for O’Brien if INM has to stump up over privacy breachBitter irony for O’Brien if INM has to stump up over privacy breach

Oireachtas lawyers ask for more time in Denis O'Brien caseOireachtas lawyers ask for more time in Denis O'Brien case

Court grants RTÉ permission to broadcast all but two paragraphs of report on Denis O'BrienCourt grants RTÉ permission to broadcast all but two paragraphs of report on Denis O'Brien


Helen O’Callaghan on the dangers of products high in caffeine.The dangers of energy drinks full of sugar

When bride-to-be Alma Clohessy enlisted her mother Rita’s help in planning her wedding, they made the most of every precious moment together.Wedding of the Week: 'It was the best, yet most emotional day of my life'

As you may be aware, new rules around motor insurance documentation have been introduced. The rules are aimed at improving transparency for consumers but a broker is warning they may have unintended consequences and could cause some confusion among policy holders.Drive a hard bargain for better car insurance

When Peter Ryan lost 90% of his vision in his early 20s, his readjustment was emotionally painful, but maturing, says Helen O’CallaghanA new way of seeing the world: Peter Ryan talks about losing 90% of his sight in his early 20s

More From The Irish Examiner