Mediahuis Ireland, the publisher formerly known as Independent News & Media (INM), has moved to settle many of the claims made against it by the so-called INM 19, a cohort of people with various links to the company whose emails were illegally accessed in a data breach in 2014.
It has also moved to settle some of the claims made by certain current and former editors within the group, who allege their private data was improperly accessed without their knowledge in data breaches separate to the one concerning the INM 19.
Mediahuis, which declined to comment, is understood to have set aside about €10 million to settle the litany of data cases, including the INM 19 breach which was later found to be illegal by the Data Protection Commission and involved tech consultants secretly scouring journalists’ emails.
Several high-profile names among the INM 19 are understood to have settled in recent weeks. They include INM’s former chief executive, Vincent Crowley, and Sam Smyth, a former star columnist at the Irish Independent, who is believed to have settled for a large six-figure sum.
Other settlements costing Mediahuis more than €100,000 each, including legal fees, are believed to have been reached with public relations executives Mark Kenny, Jonathan Neilan, Harriet Mansergh and Jennifer Kilroy, who are members of the INM 19.
Solicitor Simon McAleese, who represents many of the INM 19 and who also sued INM himself, is also believed to have been approached to settle by Mediahuis. He declined to make any comment.
Mediahuis has approached several other members of the INM 19 with offers of settlement, but agreement was not reached. This cohort is believed to include Rory Godson, a former Sunday Times Ireland editor and now a public relations executive.
The company is also believed to have settled with former INM group editor-in-chief Stephen Rae, whose data was allegedly improperly accessed in a separate breach, as well as Colm McGinty, the former Sunday World editor, who did not formally sue but made a complaint.
Other members of the INM 19 are still proceeding with their claims. These include INM’s former chief executive Gavin O’Reilly, and its former corporate affairs chief, Karl Brophy, whose case is listed for discovery next month.
Mediahuis inherited the claims after it bought INM from shareholders including Denis O’Brien in 2019, the year after High Court inspectors were appointed to investigate the INM 19 data breach. The State’s director of corporate enforcement, Ian Drennan, alleged in court documents that the data breach was overseen by former INM chairman Leslie Buckley, who was Mr O’Brien’s representative on the board.
Mr Buckley is also being sued by most of the INM 19, as well as by the company, over his involvement. He has denied any wrongdoing and declined to comment. The High Court inspectors report on the issue is expected to be released in coming months.