Holding court: Denis O’Brien’s long list of legal actions
Case taken against former TD one of several High Court proceedings taken since 2010
Denis O Brien: Initiated 12 legal cases against media organisations relating to coverage of his affairs and four against the Revenue. Photograph: David Sleator
Businessman Denis O’Brien, who this week issued proceedings against former TD Colm Keaveney, has initiated 21 sets of proceedings in the High Court since 2010, an examination of the High Court website shows.
O’Brien, who is by far the largest owner of private media in the State, has initiated 12 cases against media organisations relating to their coverage of his affairs, as well as four cases against the Revenue Commissioners, two against the Moriarty tribunal, one against the Dáil, one against Keaveney, a commercial case involving a lease and a case against a lobbying firm alleging a conspiracy to damage him.
The records do not show instances of where he threatened legal action. Last year the satirical website Waterford Whispers News removed an article about O’Brien following a threat of legal action.
The records show that O’Brien did not have any proceedings issued in the High Court in 2014, so he averaged more than three cases each year for each of the other years. Meagher Solicitors, a firm run by Paul Meagher, is the law firm most used. O’Brien also uses William Fry, and in two cases, Eames Solicitors.
O’Brien, along with politician Michael Lowry, was a defendant in a case lodged in March 2013 by the State. This case is connected with pending litigation arising from the 1995 mobile phone licence competition which was won by O’Brien’s Esat Digifone, at a time when Lowry was minister for communications.
Two of the losing bidders, Persona and Comcast, are suing the State and alleging corruption. O’Brien and Lowry were joined to the Persona case and are defendants in the Comcast case. The two sets of proceedings were lodged in 2001 and have yet to come to trial. The Persona case may yet be withdrawn.
2010Irish Daily Mail
2012Elaine ByrneEamon Dunphy
2013Mark TigheTheSunday TimesSunday Business PostSunday Independent Sunday TimesSunday Business Post
2015Justice Donald BinchyCatherine MurphyThe Irish Times
The judge said it was never his intention that his order would apply to reporting on the Dáil. June: Against the clerk of Dáil Éireann, the Dáil Committee on Procedures and Privileges and all its members. The committee rejected claims by O’Brien that statements made in the Dáil about O’Brien and the purchase by him of Siteserv, which had loans in the IBRC, by deputies Murphy and Pearse Doherty, constituted an abuse of privilege.The case is pending. October: Against Red Flag Consulting, Gavin O’Reilly, Karl Brophy and others. This is another high-profile case involving a USB stick containing material about O’Brien that the businessman says he was given anonymously and the contents of which, he claims, are evidence of a conspiracy by the defendants to damage him. The case is pending.
2016The Irish Times
In December last Keaveney issued proceedings against Independent News & Media, of which Mr O’Brien has been the largest shareholder since 2010. Keaveney is alleging he was defamed in an infographic accompanying a news story concerning the Red Flag case that, he claims, suggested he was part of a conspiracy to damage Mr O’Brien.