PR man wishes he was ‘1,000 miles away’ from Denis O’Brien case

Johnny Fallon says he has ‘nothing to gain from’ involvement in action against Red Flag

Denis O’Brien: names Declan Ganley as the client for whom Red Flag was working when it compiled a dossier at the centre of Mr O’Brien’s main case. Photograph: Swoan Parker/Reuters

Denis O’Brien: names Declan Ganley as the client for whom Red Flag was working when it compiled a dossier at the centre of Mr O’Brien’s main case. Photograph: Swoan Parker/Reuters

 

A public relations account manager who has sworn an affidavit for Denis O’Brien in the businessman’s efforts to amend his legal action against Red Flag Consulting has said he wishes he was not involved at all.

Johnny Fallon, who works for Carr Communications, has sworn an affidavit, as Jonathan Fallon, as has former TD Colm Keaveney, hitherto a stern critic of Mr O’Brien.

The businessman has included both affidavits as supporting documents in a notice of motion to the High Court but the affidavits have yet to be opened in court.

In the notice Mr O’Brien names Declan Ganley as the client for whom Red Flag was working when it compiled a dossier at the centre of Mr O’Brien’s main case, which is against Red Flag. The notice seeks High Court permission to amend Mr O’Brien’s statement of claim against the firm.

Mr Ganley denies that he is Red Flag’s client and the company denies Mr O’Brien’s allegations of being involved in a defamatory and criminal conspiracy to damage him and his businesses, motivated by malice.

“I’ve no interest in this case,” Mr Fallon told The Irish Times yesterday. “I’ve nothing to gain from it and I wish I was 1,000 miles away from it.”

Lawyers for Mr O’Brien are expected to argue that Mr Keaveney’s affidavit supports their contention that Mr Ganley, a telecoms rival who competed for the Esat mobile phone won by Mr O’Brien, is the Red Flag client, and that Mr Fallon’s affidavit supports aspects of what Mr Keaveney has sworn.

Excoriating critic

Mr Keaveney’s affidavit surprised observers of the O’Brien/Red Flag saga. The former Labour Party and Fianna Fáil TD has been an excoriating critic of the businessman and is also suing Independent News and Media (INM), of which Mr O’Brien is the controlling shareholder.

In a Dáil speech in June 2015 that infuriated Mr O’Brien, Mr Keaveney linked his name to “criminality” and charged that the businessman was connected, by the Moriarty tribunal, with what the TD called “the largest single act of public corruption in monetary terms”.

Mr O’Brien has always rejected the findings of the tribunal, stating they are merely the “opinion” of chairman, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty.

In conversations with journalists over the past two years, including this one, Mr Keaveney was even blunter in his criticisms, arguing that Mr O’Brien had to be “taken on” and claiming that media outlets connected to Mr O’Brien had run negative stories about the TD during the February 2016 general election in which he lost his seat.

In early 2016 Mr Keaveney began his defamation case against INM, and sometime later Mr O’Brien countersued. In June 2016 Mr Keaveney was declared bankrupt, with debts of more than €1.23 million.

Bankruptcy documents showed at the time that he was joint owner of his family home, valued at €130,000, but with a mortgage of more than €158,000.

Back channel

In an interview with this reporter in May 2016, Mr Keaveney named Mr Fallon as someone who offered him a “back channel” route of communication with INM in an effort to resolve his issues with them.

Yesterday, however, Mr Fallon said it was the other way around.

“At some point, he said to me, ‘Do you know anybody?’ The impression I got from that was [he wanted to know was] there any way of avoiding [court]? Would they just apologise and avoid court?”

According to Mr Keaveney in May 2016, Mr Fallon advised him against taking on Mr O’Brien and asked him was there “any message he would like me to send back?”

“How do you like the words ‘f*** off?’ ” Mr Keaveney claimed to have replied.

Mr Fallon denies this. While he has written for INM and appeared on Newstalk, his contacts were at a low level and setting up such a channel of communication “would be out of my depth”.

Mr Fallon is from Longford and has been involved with Fianna Fáil there and also nationally. He has sat on the party’s National Executive, as has Mr O’Brien’s solicitor in the Red Flag case, Aidan Eames.

Mr Fallon says he was drawn into the Red Flag case when Eames solicitors asked him to “clarify” that copies of text messages, allegedly given by Mr Keaveney to the O’Brien side and appearing to mention him [Mr Fallon], were indeed referring to him. He confirmed they were but added: “The last thing I want is to be anywhere with this thing.”

In the texts, Mr Ganley is referred to as “Gatsby”.

Mr Keaveney has not responded to multiple efforts to contact him. His Facebook shows a new posting, however: the proverb “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”.