IBRC commission gets injunction against Sunday Business Post

Court grants order over fears that further details may undermine investigation

Denis O’Brien leaving the Four Courts last year. Photograph: Alan Betson

Denis O’Brien leaving the Four Courts last year. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The commission set up to investigate transactions involving Irish Banking Resolution Corporation (IBRC) has secured a High Court injunction, on consent, preventing a newspaper publishing details of information given to it.

The injunction against Post Publications, trading as the Sunday Business Post, was sought over fears that further details published by the newspaper may undermine the commission’s work. The order applies until the commission publishes its report concerning Siteserv.

The €45.4 million sale of Siteserv (now Actavo) to Millington, a company controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien, in March 2012 is one of the transactions being investigated by the commission.

At the High Court on Friday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he was satisfied to grant the commission injunctions restraining the newspaper from publishing any statement or exhibit to any witness statement provided to the commission.

The defendant is also prohibited from publishing any oral evidence given to the commission in private session, or any document circulated by the commission under section 12 of the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act.

Paul Gallagher SC, with Barry Lennon BL, for the commission said the injunction was being made with the consent of the publisher.

Mr Lennon had earlier told the court, under the Commissions of Investigations Act, that the publication of any evidence or information given to the commission is an offence.

Counsel said the newspaper previously published details of evidence given to the commission, which the commission did not raise any complaints about.

However, following the publication of recent articles, several witnesses had expressed serious concern to the commission that their confidential personal financial and banking evidence could be disclosed.

The commission said it was concerned articles published in July, August and October may have breached the 2004 Act. It said an article published in October had purported to identify documents related to Siteserv which, it claims, the defendant must have known were or were likely to be evidence before the commission.

Following that article, the commission sought and received undertakings from the newspaper not to disclose any evidence given to the commission.

Siteserv sale story

On November 3rd Ian Kehoe, editor of the Sunday Business Post, had provided an undertaking the paper would not in future disclose or publish any evidence given to the commission, except in accordance with the 2004 Act.

Despite this, the newspaper had on November 5th published a further article on its front page along with a five-page supplement concerning the Siteserv sale, which the commission also believes may have breached the 2004 Act.

The commission wrote to the newspaper expressing its concern over the material published, and the editor replied that he did not believe the publication had breached the undertakings because the material did not come from the commission or any of its activities.

Counsel said it had hoped the November 3rd undertaking would be sufficient but that was not the case. In the circumstances, it was seeking an injunction against the newspaper.

The injunction was being sought over fears confidential evidence given by witnesses in private had the potential to seriously interfere with the work of the commission.

In a sworn statement on behalf of the commission, solicitor Karen Quigley said it did not want to unreasonably infringe on the freedom of the press but the publication of material amounts to a serious breach of the right to confidentiality.

Given the commission’s desire to protect confidentiality, it did not wish to state if specific quotations or documents are evidence before the commission, she said.

The commission was established by the then government in July 2015. It is probing certain transactions, activities and management decisions at IBRC between January 2009, when IBRC was nationalised, and February 2013, when special liquidators were appointed.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan of the High Court is the sole member of the commission.