O’Brien invite creates rift in Cabinet

Denis O’Brien is entitled to “due process” over the Moriarty Tribunal findings, a senior Fine Gael minister has said.

Health Minister James Reilly’s comments came as Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to rule out Mr O’Brien being invited to future Government events.

However, Labour ministers have made clear their unease about Government members interacting with Mr O’Brien. Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan became the latest to speak out yesterday, saying she would not put Mr O’Brien on any invite list under her control.

But Fine Gael members of Cabinet, including Mr Kenny, have so far proved reluctant to say likewise.

Mr O’Brien’s presence at last year’s Global Irish Economic Forum — an event organised by Government to get the views of international business leaders on economic issues — generated significant controversy.

Asked at his party’s weekend ard fheis if Mr O’Brien would be welcome at the next forum, Mr Kenny said: “That matter hasn’t been considered at all.”

In a later interview, the Taoiseach suggested the Government would “reflect” on the issue, but he did not directly criticise Mr O’Brien in any way, and neither did Dr Reilly.

Asked if Mr O’Brien should be invited to the next forum, Dr Reilly told RTÉ Radio that it would be “a matter for the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste” to decide.

He said the Moriarty report had been referred to the gardaí, DPP and Revenue for consideration.

Asked if he accepted the Moriarty findings, Dr Reilly said: “I accept the tribunal’s findings, but aren’t people entitled to due process?”

While tribunals make findings of fact, “none of those things are used in law — the correct authorities to deal with this are the DPP, the CAB [and] the Revenue”, Dr Reilly added.

Mr Kenny, meanwhile, dismissed as “patent nonsense” the criticism of him for sharing a platform with Mr O’Brien at a recent event in New York.

“If you carry that logic down the line, I mean, is Croke Park to evacuate itself on All-Ireland final day if Mr Ahern turns up? Am I to attend at the Connacht final in Croke Park [sic] if former minister Flynn turns up? This is patent nonsense and I’ve no intention of vetting lists where I accept invitations to attend as Taoiseach.”

The Moriarty Report found that former Fine Gael communications minister Michael Lowry “secured the winning” of the State’s second mobile phone licence for Mr O’Brien in the 1990s, while Mr O’Brien had provided payments and benefits to Mr Lowry.

Tax protest

More than 6,000 people marched on the Fine Gael ard fheis in Dublin yesterday in protest at the household charge.

Among the protesters was Social Party councillor for Dublin Ruth Coppinger, who said: “We are representing a million others who haven’t been bullied into paying the household tax. It’s the first time in decades that so many people have revolted against a tax in such numbers.”


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