Browne trying to ‘settle a score’, says O’Brien
Journalist rejects claim that criticism of businessman is linked to not getting Newstalk job
Denis O’Brien said the “main motivator” behind Vincent Browne’s “relentless repetition” of matters relating to him is down to the fact that the journalist’s offer to work for Newstalk in 2007 was not taken up. Photograph: Frank Miller
Businessman Denis O’Brien has accused journalist and broadcaster Vincent Browne of trying to “settle a score against him” through his newspaper columns because Newstalk refused to hire him several years ago.
In Browne’s Irish Times column last week, he wrote that the findings of the Moriarty tribunal should disbar Mr O’Brien from having a “disproportionate hold” on radio and print media.
But in a letter in today’s Irish Times, Mr O’Brien states that the “main motivator” behind Browne’s “relentless repetition” of matters relating to him is down to the fact that the journalist’s offer to work for the radio station in 2007 was not taken up.
“There is one highly significant matter which Browne has never made public in any of his columns for The Irish Times (or indeed elsewhere) and that is his eagerness to leave RTÉ and join Newstalk in 2007,” Mr O’Brien writes.
“As always, with anything to do with Mr Browne, negotiations were fraught and certainly did not go according to his plan. His ‘offer’ to join the station to go head to head with Pat Kenny was not accepted and I believe that since then he has persistently set out to settle a score.
“He has very deliberately withheld this information on every occasion he has written about me and my media interests. Yet he repeats his indebtedness for ‘bringing me into broadcasting’. But the inconvenient truth is never mentioned.”
Yesterday, Browne confirmed that he made contact with Newstalk, and then with TV3, in 2007. This was in anticipation that RTÉ would not renew his contract, he said. “Newstalk did not want to complete arrangements with me because of a contract I entered into with TV3,” Browne said.
However, he said in 2011 he said he was contacted by then chief executive of Newstalk Frank Cronin about presenting a daily radio programme. He said he declined this on the basis of his commitments to TV3. “In my writings and broadcasts on Denis O’Brien’s media power and the findings of the Moriarty tribunal, I did not refer to my dealings with Newstalk, because I did not think they were relevant,” Browne said.
“I was not ‘sore’ over Newstalk and I am surprised Denis O’Brien did not appreciate that. I had a lengthy discussion over coffee with him, on meeting him on the street in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the Moriarty tribunal report. That conversation was, I recall, entirely amicable. I don’t think Newstalk was even mentioned,” Browne said.
The fact that Browne was in talks with Newstalk in 2007 was reported at the time by a number of media outlets, including the Irish Independent.
He told the newspaper at the time that he had a “recent discussion with a representative of Newstalk, however, nothing has been agreed or arranged.”
Browne added yesterday: “I undertake that in all my future columns and broadcasts concerning Denis O’Brien, his media power and the findings of the Moriarty tribunal, I will make no reference to any indebtedness I may feel concerning him, even for the cup of coffee and a scone he financed when we last met.”
The tribunal also found Mr O’Brien made two payments to Mr Lowry in 1996 and 1999 totalling £500,000 and backed a loan of stg£420,000 to Mr Lowry in 1999.
Mr O’Brien has rejected the findings and insisted that the findings are “fundamentally flawed”, given that it is based on the opinions and “theories” of Mr Justice Moriarty and his legal team.