Google has delisted 74 items from The Irish Times that concern the former billionaire Seán Quinn and his adult children after successful applications under the EU's "right to be forgotten" regime.
The changes to what shows up on Google searches occurred in September and October and include 51 web addresses linked to photographs of Quinn family members, including in-laws, that were used in association with news reports.
The delistings mostly concern items associated with the family’s attempt to frustrate the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) from asserting control over an international property portfolio that was worth hundreds of millions of euro.
The property portfolio, which was owned by Mr Quinn’s children, was used as collateral against loans issued by Anglo Irish Bank, which became part of IBRC.
IBRC alleged that the Quinn family devised a scheme to frustrate it from seizing control of the rented properties.
The family accepted it initiated such a scheme but claimed that it was in turn double-crossed and lost control of the assets and their multi-million euro rent rolls. IBRC told the courts it did not accept this was the case.
After a lengthy court battle costing millions of euro and involving court hearings in Ukraine, Russia, Belize, Turkey, India and elsewhere, IBRC eventually came to a settlement with the family in 2019.
The five adult Quinn children consented to judgments of €88 million each against them, but a stay was placed on registering the judgments as long as they helped secure the return of the international assets.
The settlement involved Seán jnr, Ciara, Colette, Aoife and Brenda Quinn.
Under a 2014 ruling of the European Court of Justice, and subsequent EU data protection laws, people Can request that certain items no longer appear when internet searches are carried out using their name, if they can successfully argue that their case meets certain criteria.
Under this “right to be forgotten” rule, search engine operators such as Google can review the request and decide whether to accede to it or not. If they do, they inform the web page host that the decision has been made in relation to the URLs (web page addresses) affected.
The decision does not mean that the web pages disappear from the internet, but rather that they don’t show up when the names are put into the search engine.
The entity that hosts the web page is informed of what has occurred, but is not told what search words (what name) led to the URL being delisted from searches.
The Irish Times was informed in September and October about a number of URLs being delisted, which research now shows concern the Quinn family. The Irish Independent has likewise been informed and it might be the case that other Irish media reports have been affected.
Google does not comment on individual decisions. In the form that must be submitted for delisting requests, Google says it will “balance the privacy rights of the individual concerned with the interest of the general public in having access to the information”.
Data published by the search engine shows that since May 2014 there have been 10,099 Irish requests to have content delisted, involving 40,966 URLs.
The requests were successful in relation to 52 per cent of the URLs.
The Google data shows it has delisted 1,265 URLs associated with independent.ie, 744 associated with irishtimes.com, 417 associated with pressreader.com, 359 associated with examiner.com, 316 associated with twitter.com, 256 associated with facebook.com and 147 associated with herald.ie.
Web page addresses associated with the mobile apps of Irish news outlets have also been delisted, the data shows.
FORGOTTEN FOUR: EXAMPLES OF DELISTED REPORTS
IBRC unravels web around Seán Quinn family's assets in India
A March 2018 report on an office building in Hyderabad, in India, with a value of about €65 million. The report outlined how the whereabouts of rent from the building totalling $36 million was unclear.
IBRC calls on court to address Quinn family position on paper trail
A March 2013 report on claims in the High Court by IBRC that the Quinn family was failing to disclose information about rent paid by tenants of the international property group IBRC was seeking to assert control over.
'Almost certain' Sean Quinn family behind ¤10m asset-stripping of company, says judge
A March 2018 report in which Mr Justice Robert Haughton was recorded as saying it was "almost certain" that the Quinn family was behind an elaborate scheme to extract €10 million from a company in India.
IBRC seeks details on Quinns' involvement with QuinnBet
A November 2017 report on IBRC telling the court it would apply for an order concerning the employment of any member of the Quinn family in a new online gambling venture, QuinnBet.