O’Brien action against Dáil watchdog condemned

Billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien’s legal action against the Dáil’s watchdog committee has been widely condemned across the political spectrum.

The Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) is to hold an emergency meeting before the Dáil reconvenes in September to discuss Mr O’Brien’s move.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett is among the 10 members of the committee who have been targeted for court action by the billionaire.

It is understood the case, listed for mention in the High Court on October 7, centres on Mr O’Brien’s concerns over the CPP’s refusal to reprimand deputy Catherine Murphy for raising allegations over his business dealings with former Anglo Bank, IBRC, under Dáil privilege.

The tycoon has already launched legal moves against the Oireachtas and the State over the remarks by the TD, and Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, as he claims the use of privilege was an infringement of his human rights under European law.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe became the first Cabinet member to condemn Mr O’Brien’s latest moves against the CPP.

“Privileges that are available to members of the Oireachtas are an absolutely essential cornerstone to how democracy operates,” Mr Donohoe said.

Renua leader Lucinda Crieighton also waded in to express grave concerns about the moves by Mr O’Brien.The ex-Fine Gael minister

said Mr O’Brien should “stand back” and think again about what he was doing and what the possible implications could be.

“I would say very firmly that Renua Ireland defends the principle of freedom of speech in our parliament. We stand behind the Committee on Procedures and Privileges,” the Dublin TD said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin warned that Mr O’Brien’s legal pressure on the CPP amounted to a “threat to democracy”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described Mr O’Brien’s legal action as a “disturbing development”, not “healthy for democracy”.

Ms Murphy achieved national prominence earlier this year when she used Dail privilege to make a series of claims about Mr O’Brien’s business dealings with IBRC.

The CPP took legal advice and rejected claims that Catherine Murphy, now a joint leader of the Social Democrats, had abused her position in the use of parliamentary privilege.

However, members of the CPP stressed that they had not ruled on whether her claims were accurate or not, just that she had the right to make them in the Dáil.

The businessman’s representatives accused Ms Murphy of abusing her position to “peddle lies” based on stolen documents.

CPP member and Independent Waterford TD John Halligan insisted that the CPP would now have to meet early in order to decide how to respond to the action by Mr O’Brien.

Mr Halligan expressed alarm at the moves by the businessman as he stood by the decisions of the committee which oversees the rules governing the Dail and the conduct of TDs.

The CPP members named in the action are: Mr Barrett (Fine Gael), Mr Halligan (Ind) Joe Carey (FG), Martin Heydon (FG), Paul Kehoe (Fine Gael), John Lyons (Lab), Dinny McGinley (FG), Seán Ó Fearghaíl (Fianna Fáil), Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin) and Emmet Stagg (Lab).


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