‘Media baron can’t be a private person’

Denis O’Brien can never be a private person because he is a “media baron” possessing the power wealth can buy, a barrister for RTÉ has said in the High Court.

David Holland rejected arguments that Mr O’Brien is entitled to be treated the same as every other private citizen.

He was arguing RTÉ’s case against the businessman’s application for an injunction preventing the broadcast of a report detailing his personal and confidential banking affairs with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

Mr O’Brien was not just a wealthy person “with the power that money can buy” but he was also Ireland’s most powerful media baron, counsel said.

While he was not saying Mr O’Brien had misused that power he cannot complain about the media performing one of its roles in monitoring the powerful. Mr O’Brien personally owns just under 30% of Independent News and Media (INM) and 27 radio stations around Europe, including two national Irish stations.

“In short, he is a media baron and is Ireland’s most powerful media baron,” he said.

Mr Holland was making submissions in reply to the case made on behalf of Mr O’Brien for an injunction over a proposed RTÉ report which he says will breach his constitutional and European Convention rights to privacy.

IBRC, which has a separate but related case against RTÉ, supports his application. He also says there is no public interest in disclosing his details and that in principle, if it is allowed in this case, it would not be possible to say where it should stop. Michael Cush, counsel for Mr O’Brien, said the damage to his client if the broadcast went ahead was impossible to calculate.

Mr Cush referred to the evidence of independent banking expert Marcus Trench, who swore an affidavit for the O’Brien side in which he said Mr O’Brien’s relationship with banking institutions, including the terms of credit extended to him, would likely be damaged.

It would seriously undermine his bargaining position with those banks and erode mutual trust, Mr Trench said.

Mr Cush said in addition to saying publication was likely to damage Mr O’Brien, Mr Trench was saying it was impossible to calculate the damage which would be caused to his client.

The case continues before Mr Justice Donald Binchy.

 

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