Siteserv wants Dáil record amended on Murphy speech

Denis O’Brien planning to dispatch similar letter to Ceann Comhairle requesting change

Siteserv has written to Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett asking for the record of the Dáil to be amended regarding statements made under parliamentary privilege by Independent TD Catherine Murphy about its sale by IBRC to Denis O'Brien.

The letter, sent on Wednesday by chief executive Seán Corkery, alleges Ms Murphy abused privilege to make false and unfounded Dáil statements on April 21st and May 6th.

A spokesman for Mr O’Brien confirmed the businessman was planning to send a similar letter to Mr Barrett and that he agreed with the contents of Mr Corkery’s letter.

The sale, following which taxpayers lost €105 million in a debt write-off by the State bank, has become controversial in recent weeks after it emerged concerns had been raised by Government officials.


‘My duty’

Ms Murphy defended her statements on Thursday: “I sought to ask the [Finance] Minister to clarify worrying information disclosed to me from various reliable sources. It is my duty as a parliamentarian to try to get to the truth.”

Among eight issues raised in the letter, Siteserv disputes a suggestion by Ms Murphy that IBRC “subsidised” the sale to Mr O’Brien.

It also disputes that he was a "friend" of IBRC executive Richard Woodhouse, or that there was anything improper in the formation of Millington, Mr O'Brien's Isle of Man company used to transact the deal.

The letter denies Mr O’Brien was involved in directing a €5 million payment to shareholders of the then effectively bust company. It also alleges Ms Murphy used “stolen confidential information” about his personal finances in a speech.

“I understand Mr O’Brien is writing to you separately in this regard,” Mr Corkery wrote.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Corkery said the €5 million payment came from cash that was in Siteserv's bank accounts before it was bought by Mr O'Brien: "Millington paid €45 million, no debt, no cash."

He said politicians were asking the public to connect disparate issues concerning the Siteserv sale, Irish Water contracts and Mr O’Brien’s finances.

He insisted Mr O’Brien had no prior “inside knowledge” of water metering contracts, and said “the man on the street” knew water charges were coming due to references in the 2010 troika bailout plan.

Mr Corkery said he was happy the Government had ordered a review of the Siteserv transaction by IBRC liquidator, Kieran Wallace. Siteserv has not yet been contacted by the review team.


Mr Corkery was appointed as Siteserv chief executive in July 2013. When asked how he could be so sure there were no untoward issues with a sale conducted more than a year before he joined, he said he made it his business to find out before he took the job.

He spoke to Mr O’Brien and others about complaints made about the sale process by other Siteserv suitors at the time of the deal. “I asked about [Altrad],” he said, referring to a would-be bidder that claimed after the sale it would have paid more than Millington.

Mr Corkery said Siteserv has boosted employment from 1,650 to 3,500 since the buyout. “We expect revenues of about €400 million this year.”

He said Siteserv had decided to rebrand prior to the current furore, but the name change was being delayed.

About 75 per cent of Siteserv’s growth is from contracts outside of Ireland, including a fibre roll-out for Mr O’Brien’s telco Digicel in Jamaica and Trinidad, he added.

Siteserv has also just won a contract for the first phase of the fibre roll-out of Siro, the telecoms joint venture between ESB and Vodafone. It will also announce several acquisitions in the UK this year, separate to a €70 million, three-year investment plan to 2017.

“It’s offensive for anyone to suggest something was presented to the buyer on a plate. We are talking about people of the highest integrity. It is also affecting our employees, ” said Mr Corkery

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times