INM and the ODCE: what happens next?

Progress of application for appointment of inspectors hinges on judicial review case

If INM fails in its judicial review case, the application for the appointment of inspectors to the media group will then be heard.

If INM fails in its judicial review case, the application for the appointment of inspectors to the media group will then be heard.

 

The application for the appointment of High Court inspectors to Independent News & Media (INM), the largest private media organisation in the State, was put on hold yesterday when it came before the court.

A number of legal parties addressed the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who has now set out a schedule of what will happen over the coming weeks.

The application for the appointment of inspectors to INM was filed in the courts on March 23rd by Ian Drennan, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, and a copy of his grounding affidavit was served on INM.

The media group yesterday told Mr Justice Kelly that it intended to seek a judicial review of Mr Drennan’s application, or in plain language, an order from the court to slap down the application on various grounds.

On May 9th, a judge other than Mr Justice Kelly will hear the judicial review application. If the judge, who has yet to be assigned the case, agrees with the argument to be made by INM, then that will be the end of Mr Drennan’s application.

If, however, INM fails in its judicial review case, the application from Mr Drennan will then be heard. Mr Justice Kelly said that this will not happen until the next legal term, which begins on May 30th.

Meanwhile, INM has said that some of the material contained in Mr Drennan’s affidavit is covered by legal privilege and should not have been put in the document. This matter is to be resolved next Tuesday.

In the meantime, Mr Justice Kelly has reserved any decision on whether he would accede to applications that were made yesterday by a range of parties who want to see what is in Mr Drennan’s affidavit.

Alleged data breach

A number of parties have an interest in the affidavit because it covers an alleged major data breach at INM in late 2014 that was directed by its then chairman, Leslie Buckley, and apparently paid for by its largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien. The two men are long-time business colleagues.

One of those seeking access to Mr Drennan’s affidavit is former INM journalist Sam Smyth, who apparently was one of 19 “persons of interest” about whom the data, which included INM emails, was “interrogated”.

Another party seeking access to Mr Drennan’s affidavit is Red Flag, a public relations and lobbying firm involved in complicated legal proceedings brought by Mr O’Brien, who is alleging conspiracy and defamation.

The emails of the chairman of Red Flag, Gavin O’Reilly, and its chief executive, Karl Brophy, may have been accessed as part of the data breach, as they were both former executives with INM. (Mr O’Reilly is a former chief executive of INM.)

Also seeking access to Mr Drennan’s affidavit, and other documents that form part of the Drennan application, is the Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, who is preparing to initiate a formal inquiry into what happened with the INM data.

Also seeking access to the affidavit is Robert Pitt, a former chief executive at INM who made a protected disclosure to Mr Drennan’s office in November 2016, when he was still chief executive of the media group, setting in train the series of events that led to last month’s application for the appointment of inspectors.

Persons who make disclosures under the so-called whistleblower law are entitled not to suffer any detriment as a result. Mr Pitt wants to see the affidavit in case it shows that he suffered detriment at the hands of INM.