Brendan O'Connor sues Mediahuis over data breach

Brendan O'Connor sues Mediahuis over data breach

Brendan O'Connor: Proceedings were filed on Friday. Picture: Bríd O'Donovan

RTÉ broadcaster Brendan O’Connor has filed a High Court action against Mediahuis Ireland Group, formerly known as Independent News and Media (INM), over an alleged data breach.

It is understood that Mr O’Connor, who writes a column for the Sunday Independent, is suing the publishing company after his emails were allegedly illegally accessed in a data breach.

The proceedings against Mediahuis Ireland and former INM chair Leslie Buckley, were filed by solicitor Simon McAleese on Friday.

Mr O'Connor is understood to be the latest person to sue the company over an alleged data breach in 2014, with other high-profile names understood to have already settled or almost settled with the company.

INM’s former chief executive, Vincent Crowley, and former Sunday Independent journalist Sam Smyth are understood to be some of those who have settled or almost settled with the company.

It is alleged that third parties searched emails of people working for INM.

Mediahuis is understood to have set aside millions of euro to settle data cases after the Data Protection Commission found a data breach to be illegal. 

Cork businessman Leslie Buckley, who is named in Mr O’Connor’s High Court lawsuit, stepped down from his role as INM board chairman amid the alleged data breach scandal in 2018.

Mediahuis, the Belgian-Dutch group which bought INM in 2019, considers the data scandal to be a legacy issue and is keen to resolve it, according to the Independent.

The data breach cases date back to 2014 when data relating to some INM employees was allegedly removed from the company and interrogated by external contractors.

This was allegedly directed by Leslie Buckley who was INM chair at the time.

Mr Buckley said that a data search was arranged as a cost-cutting exercise to find information about a contract.

A company connected to Denis O'Brien, who was INM's major shareholder in 2014, paid towards INM's secret data operation, the Irish Times reports.

Despite Data Protection Commission findings against the company over the 2014 data breach, the company was not fined because the breach occurred before the General Data Protection Directive (GDPR) was introduced, the Independent reports.

Mr Buckley was chair of INM for five and a half years but left in 2018 after the data scandal surfaced.

In his earlier career, he restructured major companies, including Aer Lingus, Waterford Crystal and Irish Steel.

He was chief operations officer of Esat Telecom from 1996 to 1997 and is estimated to have made some €10m from the sale of Esat to BT in 2000.

He is a close associate of billionaire business tycoon Denis O'Brien who founded international telecoms company Digicel.

Mr Buckley is estimated to have made some €70m from his interests in Digicel, the Independent reports.

Mr Buckley and his wife Carmel co-founded Haven, a housing and sanitation charity in Haiti, a country where Digicel also operates and where it has its largest market of mobile subscribers.

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