Micheál Martin: INM controversy of ‘profound concern’

Fianna Fáil leader says politicians will have to protect media independence

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin: concerns are of  a most profound kind. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin: concerns are of a most profound kind. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said current controversies involving Independent News and Media (INM) are of “profound concern” and that politicians will ultimately have to protect the independence of the media.

Mr Martin is the first senior political figure to comment on the issue, and he said it raises serious concerns about corporate governance and Irish democracy.

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is to apply to have High Court inspectors appointed to INM on foot of concerns about the proposed purchase of Newstalk radio and an alleged data breach.

Newstalk is owned by businessman Denis O’Brien, the largest shareholder in INM.

The application is to be heard on April 16th, and the affidavit grounding the application has been served on INM and filed in the High Court but has not yet been opened in court. Details contained in the affidavit have been subject to media reports, however.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr Martin said the “concerns are of a most profound kind in terms of corporate governance, in terms of our democracy”.

While adding the High Court process must be respected, the Fianna Fáil leader said the controversy has led to concerns of the integrity of the media, as well as its capacity to hold powerful figures to account.

“All of us have been taken aback by the revelations in the last week to ten days,” he said. “Obviously we will have to await the full publication of the affidavit that the ODCE will be presenting to the High Court.

“From my perspective, I am watching developments with really profound concern, in terms of what it entails for us a democracy, and it will have to really involve, ultimately, the political system in making sure that we take decisions that once and for all ring fence the independence of our media, underpin it and make sure it is free from any overbearing influences that can actually act to distort and undermine our democracy,” Mr Martin said.