Oireachtas to ‘vigorously’ defend against O’Brien suit

The High Court case taken by businessman Denis O’Brien against TDs will be “absolutely” and vigorously defended, the new chairman of the Dáil Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, has said.

In his first major interview since his election to the chair, Mr Ó Fearghaíl said the case taken by Mr O’Brien will be contested by his office and the Oireachtas authorities. “That process is ongoing, there has been a series of preliminary hearings but they take time,” he said.

Asked will he and the Oireachtas Commission be defending the action, Mr Ó Fearghaíl replied: “Yes, absolutely.”

Mr O’Brien initiated legal proceedings last summer against the last Dáil’s Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP).

Mr O’Brien named every member of the committee in a submission to the High Court.

Mr O’Brien took issue with the CPP’s findings that Independent TD Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when making allegations about him in the chamber.

The case is progressing through the courts. The two sides are in the process of trying to agree a statement of facts that can be used at the hearing. If and when a statement of facts is agreed the case will be listed to be heard in the High Court.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl has overseen the introduction of a new suite of Dáil reforms which will see the powers of the 158 TDs enhanced.

He is clear, with those new powers come responsibilites, and TDs seeking to abuse those new powers will be “shut down” and sanctioned.

“I have talked to the political leaders and the leaders of the independent groupings on a number of occasions. We talked about this issue of people naming people from outside the house. It is not appropriate for people to do so and I pointed that out.

“I would be minded to shut down anybody who would be naming people or damaging the good name of people who are not in the position to defend themselves,” he said.

Another court challenge involving the Oireachtas, from the former CEO of the Rehab charity, Angela Kerins, is also still live.

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