Rights of TDs ‘trumps O’Brien’

Former attorney general Michael McDowell has said that the rights of TDs to speak out must trump tycoon Denis O’Brien’s bid to keep banking arrangements secret.

Rights of TDs ‘trumps O’Brien’

The ex-PD leader and justice minister waded into the parliamentary privilege controversy as he said that he expected the courts to rule that the Oireachtas had foremost rights in this area.

“Oireachtas privilege over comments wherever published should trump the private interests of Denis O’Brien in relation to business borrowings from a bank,” Mr McDowell told RTÉ.

With media outlets going to court today to get clarity on whether they can report remarks made in the Dáil regarding Mr O’Brien’s financial arrangements with IBRC by Independent TD Catherine Murphy, the former attorney general said it would be “absurd” to enforce such a ban.

“The court will probably say the order did not extend to the application of whether or not to cover Catherine Murphy’s speech.

“The second thing that will probably be acknowledged is that the speech is now in the public domain and that it would be absurd and futile for some media in Ireland not to report it,” Mr McDowell said.

The former justice minister said Mr O’Brien had been “issuing threats” to media organisations that reporting Ms Murphy’s comments would be illegal.

“At the heart of this is the over-weening ambition of Denis O’Brien to use the courts in this way to silence in the media in covering affairs related to himself,” Mr McDowell said.

Former IBRC chief Alan Dukes said Mr O’Brien did not get special treatment from the bank.

“Nobody secured more favourable terms than others just because of who they were or the size of their loans, everything depended on the circumstances of each particular case,” Mr Dukes said.

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