Creighton apologises to developer in High Court

Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 00:00

Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has apologised at the High Court to property developer Michael O’Flynn over statements made by her in which, he alleged, she defamed him.

The apology was included in a statement read to the court yesterday as part of the settlement of Mr O’Flynn’s action against Ms Creighton arising from a speech made by her in July 2010 when she was a Fine Gael backbencher.

The settlement also provides that Ms Creighton will make a contribution to his legal costs.

The case arose from her speech on standards in public life to the MacGill Summer School shortly after media comment concerning a fundraising golf classic for Fine Gael at the K Club in Co Kildare.

Mr O’Flynn claimed Ms Creighton defamed him in the speech, in which she said there could be no room in Fine Gael for “cute-hoor politics”. She also said Fine Gael in government must be “much more than Fianna Fáil lite” and could not condemn Fianna Fáil for entertaining developers in the Galway Races tent while on the other hand extending the “biscuit tin for contributions from high-profile developers who are beholden to Nama”.

In an RTÉ radio interview later she elaborated on her comments and expressed unhappiness that Mr O’Flynn had financially supported the Fine Gael golf classic a few days earlier at a time when he was one of the top 10 indebted developers to Nama. Ms Creighton denied defamation and pleaded she was expressing an opinion honestly held.

Settled overnight

The case opened on Tuesday before Mr Justice Eamon de Valera and a jury of five women and seven men. Yesterday, senior counsel Declan Doyle for Mr O’Flynn said the case had been settled overnight and a statement would be read on Ms Creighton’s behalf by senior counsel Paul O’Higgins.

In that statement, Ms Creighton said she made comments during her speech and subsequently on the radio and in The Irish Times about Mr O’Flynn’s attendance at the golf classic, in particular concerning low standards and wrongdoing.

“I am happy to confirm Michael O’Flynn is an upstanding developer and person who operates his business to the highest standards,” she said. “He has not done any wrong and any suggestion to the contrary was not intended by me.”

Ms Creighton apologised to Mr O’Flynn and his family for any hurt and distress caused by her comments and said she had also agreed to pay a contribution towards his legal costs.

Mr Justice de Valera discharged the jury and said it was always better such matters be compromised rather than go on to what could be “a bitter end”.

Mr O’Flynn “very happy”

Outside court, Mr Flynn read a prepared statement in which he said he was very happy the damage caused to his reputation by Ms Creighton’s “very public comments” had been “recognised by these court proceedings”.

“It was regrettable that I was compelled to bring these proceedings and I am delighted to have received an apology in open court from Ms Creighton.” He said that from day one all he had sought was an appropriate apology and a donation to the medical and research foundation of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, “in recognition of her inappropriate comments about me”.

He was glad she had agreed to make “a substantial contribution to my legal costs, part of which I will donate to Crumlin”. He said he has been in business in Ireland and abroad since the early 1970s and treasured his good name in his professional and private lives.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Creighton said she was really pleased they had managed to settle the dispute.

“I think, as the judge said, it could have turned into a very bitter and divisive battle and that is not what anybody wanted. I think, look, we have come to an arrangement and we just have to move on right now.”

She said she still had “every belief in standards in public office” and would always “speak out” about those.