Oireachtas group rejects O’Brien’s Dáil privilege abuse claim against Murphy

An Oireachtas committee has rejected demands from businessman Denis O’Brien to sanction Independent TD Catherine Murphy for making allegations about his bank deals in the Dáil.

The Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) also rejected claims the TD abused Dáil privilege when she made the claims.

Mr O’Brien wrote to Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett last month complaining Ms Murphy had made “false and inaccurate” statements about his personal banking arrangements.

Ms Murphy made the comments on May 28 in the Dáil about O’Brien’s loan arrangements with IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Documents, seen by the Irish Examiner, reveal Mr O’Brien’s solicitors William Fry wrote to Mr Barrett the next day.

Ms Murphy’s comments were a “flagrant breach” of the terms of a court injunction preventing RTÉ from reporting claims about Mr O’Brien’s banking business, it was claimed.

“The disclosure amounts to a deliberate and manifest abuse of Dáil privilege,” the lawyers wrote, adding: “Deputy Murphy has acted irresponsibly, recklessly and in total disregard, not only of our client, but of the judiciary of the State.”

Saying that Mr O’Brien acknowledged free speech, the lawyers said the non-existence of procedures to prevent a politician abusing privilege was a “matter of grave concern”.

Mr O’Brien “requests confirmation of the steps you propose to take to sanction” Ms Murphy, the lawyers added.

In his own letter to the Ceann Comhairle, Mr O’Brien claimed Ms Murphy’s allegations about his bank deals were “inaccurate”.

The series of letters included complaints from Siteserv – the company controlled by Mr O’Brien – whose sale by IBRC will now be investigated by an inquiry.

Oireachtas sources last night confirmed the demands in the four letters were rejected by the CPP and a letter would be sent to Mr O’Brien’s lawyers saying so.

“There was no abuse of privilege, and no breach of the injunction. It was considered whether her statements constituted a breach of a court injunction but it was argued that there was a complete separation of powers and that an injunction of RTE cannot extent to Houses of the Oireachtas.”

However, the issue of possible future sanctions against TDs who abuse Dail privilege was discussed by the CPP. This is in light of the fact that Mr O’Brien has threatened to take further legal action.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking in Brussels defended the terms for the full inquiry and said

fresh claims made by Sinn Fein about Mr O’Brien’s loans would be included in the probe.

Asked if Fine Gael should disassociate themselves from Mr O’Brien, Mr Kenny replied: “I have no dealings with Denis O’Brien at all.”

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