Denis O’Brien in fresh attempt to ‘skip queue’ with Red Flag case

Testy exchanges between judge and O’Brien’s counsel over third early-date request

Denis O'Brien has returned to the Court of Appeal for the third time seeking a speedy hearing of his challenge to a judgment in his long-running action against Red Flag Consulting.

In an unreported application last Friday, Mr O'Brien's barrister, Frank Beatty SC, asked the president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, whether any date had become available for an early hearing of the appeal. A date of March 2018 had already been set.

In a series of testy exchanges, Mr Justice Ryan finally suggested to Mr Beatty that if he was arguing Mr O’Brien’s appeal was of such importance that the court “must” make room for it at the expense of another case in the queue, he should do so in a written submission to the court.

Since October 2015 Mr O’Brien has been suing Red Flag, claiming that, acting on behalf of a client, it was part of a conspiracy against him and that the firm had defamed him. Red Flag rejects the assertions.


Last December in the High Court, Mr O'Brien suffered a serious setback when Mr Justice Colm Mac Eochaidh ruled the firm was not obliged to reveal the identity of its client on whose behalf it compiled a dossier of newspaper articles and profile-cum-assessment material on Mr O'Brien.

Mr O’Brien’s initial appeal against this judgment, which he lodged in January, sought to challenge the ruling but said there was no urgency to the matter. However, he returned to court in March seeking a date for an early hearing.

At that time he was told he would have to take his place in the queue and, should an opportunity arise, his appeal could be considered for slotting in.

‘Waste of costs’

On Friday Mr Beatty raised the matter once more with Mr Justice Ryan on Mr O’Brien’s behalf. The barrister asked whether there was any date in the next legal term for the hearing.

The judge said that if a gap opened up, Mr O’Brien’s request for a hearing date would be considered.

"This is the third occasion now in which Mr O'Brien has made the same application to skip the queue," said counsel for Red Flag, William Abrahamson, "and, with the greatest respect. . . it is simply a waste of costs to be coming back time and again for the same arguments to be articulated."

Turning to Mr Beatty, Mr Justice Ryan said: "If you want to make the case, if you want to make the case that the court must – not may or will try but must accommodate it, please make that case. . . If you want to say 'Please, let's do it', well and good. . . I will give you two weeks to put your 5,000 words and put it in."

Mr Justice Ryan said he would deal directly with any written submission himself and not in open court, and he gave Mr Abrahamson , the opportunity to reply in 2,500 words.

The judge told both sides that, as of now, he was treating Mr O’Brien’s call for an early hearing as “‘urgent and important – please facilitate if you can’, rather than statutory obligation”.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times