Coalition rift over FG links to O'Brien

Tue, Apr 3, 2012, 01:00

COALITION FIGURES remained divided over businessman Denis O’Brien’s presence at future Government-sponsored events yesterday, with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan insisting politicians could not control who they met at public occasions.

Mr Noonan pointed to the ongoing boardroom battle to gain control of Independent News and Media when asked if he thought Cabinet members should review their interactions with individuals criticised by tribunals.

“I think it’s an open secret that there’s competition between Denis O’Brien and his supporters in Independent Newspapers and the O’Reilly group and their supporters,” Mr Noonan said.

“Now I don’t want to be dragged into that in any way whatsoever, but that’s background to a lot of what’s in the media at the moment and, as I say, it’s not my business who wins out in that battle or who controls the newspaper.” Speaking in Limerick to RTÉ yesterday, Mr Noonan said: “It’s impossible for politicians and particularly Ministers to control who they meet at public occasions.”

A spokesman for Mr O’Brien said: “Denis O’Brien was the subject of 15 articles in the Sunday Independent on Sunday – that speaks for itself. This is unprecedented in the history of journalism in Ireland.”

The recent publication of the Mahon tribunal’s final report has renewed focus on the Moriarty report, which last year made an adverse finding against Mr O’Brien for the manner in which his company Esat Digifone secured the State’s second mobile phone licence in 1995. Mr O’Brien has disputed the findings.

A recent photograph of Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Mr O’Brien and others at the New York Stock Exchange prompted a number of Ministers to suggest the businessman should not be invited to the next Global Economic Forum.