Businessman Denis O’Brien takes legal action against Dáil committee

Ceann Comhairle among CPP members named in submission to High Court

Businessman Denis O’Brien: Believed to be taking issue with the CPP’s findings that Independent TD Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when making allegations about him in the chamber. Photograph: The Irish Times

Businessman Denis O’Brien: Believed to be taking issue with the CPP’s findings that Independent TD Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when making allegations about him in the chamber. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Businessman Denis O’Brien has initiated legal proceedings against the Dáil’s Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP).

Mr O’Brien has named every member of the committee including the Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett in a submission to the High Court.

Mr O’Brien is believed to be taking issue with the CPP’s findings that Independent TD Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege when making allegations about him in the chamber.

The businessman is already taking legal action against the Houses of the Oireachtas and the State for claims made in the Dáil chamber about him. He argues speeches made by Ms Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty are a breach of his rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

The clerk to the CPP contacted members on Friday to inform them that each member has been named as a party to the latest proceedings.

In an email, the 10 TDs were told a meeting must be convened in early September to discuss the case.

Independent TD John Halligan, who is a member of the CPP, said the legal proceedings were a “gross interference with the running of the Irish parliament”.

‘No abuse of privilege’

“We can’t determine whether what Catherine Murphy said is right or wrong. We don’t make decisions lightly. Mr O’Brien is now trying to interfere in the running of the national parliament.

“It is an outrageous attempt to stifle and silence our parliament.”

The committee, which is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle, considered letters from Mr O’Brien’s lawyers on the issue.

After taking legal advice from the Oireachtas legal counsel, the CPP rejected assertions by Mr O’Brien that Ms Murphy had abused Dáil privilege.

It said it could not determine if her allegations were true or false until the Commission of Investigation into certain Irish Bank Resolution Corporation transactions was complete.

Ms Murphy had made a number of claims in the Dáil about the sale by IBRC to Siteserv, a company owned by Mr O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien’s lawyers, William Fry, accused the Houses of the Oireachtas of having no “effective parliamentary procedures to prevent a member abusing parliamentary privilege”.

Legal advice

In correspondence to the TDs, the clerk of the CPP wrote: “I have to inform you that each member of CPP has been named as a party to High Court proceedings brought by Mr Denis O’Brien.

“This relates to CPP’s findings on utterances made in the chamber relating to Mr O’Brien.”

Sinn Féin TD Aengus O’Snodaigh said it was a “sad day when Mr O’Brien attempts to take a Dáil committee to court”.

He said: “The CPP follows the rules. It follows the legal advice given to members. This is totally unnecessary.”

The CPP will meet early next month to discuss how to proceed and members were told no action is required by them until that point.

The case has been listed for mention on October 7th in the High Court.

Labour TD Emmett Stagg said he had not seen the letter from the clerk of the CPP but said Mr O’Brien was entitled to take a case if he chose to.

A spokesman for Mr O’Brien was unable to comment yesterday.