Former INM CEO Gavin O'Reilly is concerned his personal data may have been accessed during an alleged data breach at the company in 2014, the High Court has heard.
He and former INM corporate affairs director Karl Brophy are seeking the court’s permission to rely, in intended litigation against INM, on materials provided to them in the context of proceedings by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) to appoint inspectors to the company.
They want to rely on the material for intended legal action against INM, and possibly others, the court heard.
The grounds of the intended action are likely to include breach of their rights under the Constitution and data privacy law.
A range of materials, including sworn statements from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and INM executives, was provided to the two and various other third parties last year on condition those could be used only for the hearing about whether to appoint inspectors.
Anyone seeking additional use of the material had to ask the court.
The ODCE has not objected to Mr O’Reilly and Mr Brophy relying on the materials in their contemplated proceedings but NM strongly opposed the application when it came today before the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly.
Having heard the sides, the judge said he was reserving his judgment as the application raised important issues which may have repercussions for other cases.
Earlier, Niamh Hyland SC, for the applicants, said Mr O’Reilly is concerned his personal data, had been accessed during the alleged data breach.
Mr Brophy, a former senior journalist at INM, was concerned that material related to his journalistic sources and other personal data, including certain private medical data, had been accessed, she said.
Permitting her side to rely on the documents is in the public interest given the very serious issues which arise, including in relation to freedom of the press, she said.
INM had advanced “no clear reasons” for opposing her side being permitted rely on the material, she argued.
The company is itself suing its former chairman Leslie Buckley, she said.
It was “totally artificial” for INM to argue that her side could get the material via the normal discovery route when it already has the material or that her clients would get a “litigation advantage” if the court granted this application. Most of the material was already in the public domain and subject of extensive reporting in the media, she added.
INM’s “real reason” for objecting is to make her clients case “as difficult as possible”, she said.
Ms Hyland also referred to parts of the court’s September 2018 appointment of inspectors to INM, including the court’s concerns about wrongdoing of an “unusual and marked kind”.
In opposing the application, Shane Murphy SC, for the INM, said the ODCE got the materials under his compulsory statutory power and the applicants got access to them in the context of the ODCE’s proceedings to have inspectors appointed.
The material cannot be used for private inter-parties litigation, he argued.
There is a justifiable basis for refusing the request until the other side set out their case and outline why the material is necessary, he also submitted.
The fact INM has taken its own case against Mr Buckley is “irrelevant” and there is “no equivalence” between these applicants and Mr Buckley.
Mr Murphy also argued the applicants have no defined case as of yet and have not shown any injustice would be suffered by them should this application be refused at this stage.
Last September, the judge appointed two inspectors - barrister Sean Gillane SC, who specialises in criminal law, and Richard Fleck, a UK-based solicitor and corporate governance expert - to investigate the conduct of affairs at INM and their first interim report was provided to the judge last month.
Ian Drennan applied for inspectors in spring 2018 following his office’s year-long investigation into matters raised in protected disclosures made in 2016 and 2017 by former INM CEO Robert Pitt and INM's Chief Financial Officer Ryan Preston.
Arising from that investigation, the ODCE raised concerns about issues including an alleged data breach at INM in 2014 involving data being exported from the jurisdiction and interrogated by third parties. The then INM Chairman, Leslie Buckley, who stepped down in March 2018, has said that was done as a cost-cutting exercise called Operation Quantum.