Kevin O’Sullivan: Editor’s statement on right to report

‘Irish Times’ editor on importance of publishing matters that are in the public interest

The Irish Times is strongly committed to reporting on matters of major public interest, particularly when they are raised by members of the Dáil and Seanad.

On Thursday, Catherine Murphy TD made statements to the Dáil regarding businessman Denis O'Brien's banking arrangements with State-owned IBRC. Some of the information disclosed by Ms Murphy in her statements is information that the High Court had already considered in the O'Brien v RTÉ case, and which the Court ordered last week could not be published.

RTÉ had argued to the court that there was a public interest in the information being reported, but the court still ordered that it not be published pending a full hearing. The order is directed at anyone on notice of it, which of course includes The Irish Times, and therefore we are bound by it. The judgment in the case, which will be issued in a redacted form, is awaited.

Our legal advice, following Ms Murphy’s Dáil statement, was that reporting it in full would involve a breach of the injunction and that it was not clear that the absolute privilege referred to in Article 15.12 of the Constitution would afford us privilege in such a way as to allow us disregard the court order. In those circumstances we amended our initial online report and reported the issue in the fullest possible way, having regard to the court order.


Seeking confirmation
Shortly afterwards, solicitors for Denis O'Brien wrote to The Irish Times asserting that reporting of Ms Murphy's statements would result in an application to court to enforce the injunction.

We remain committed to the reporting of matters in the public interest. With that in mind, we will be applying to the High Court on Tuesday morning (separately to RTÉ) to seek confirmation that the statements can be reported. We believe that to be the responsible and appropriate way to vindicate our right to report on these matters, and the public’s right to know them.

We believe it is critically important to our democracy that we publish a matter of public interest raised in our national parliament, and will apply to the court for confirmation we can do so.

We would very much have wished to bring the matter before the court before Tuesday, but that will be the first opportunity we have to make our application to the court.