Fine Gael Minister says O’Brien media ban ‘very serious’

Circumstance where Irish media cannot report on Dáil not tenable, says Donohoe

Mr O’Brien’s spokesman claimed on RTÉ Radio that the documents in TD Catherine Murphy’s possession contained “erroneous” figures and had been altered. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Mr O’Brien’s spokesman claimed on RTÉ Radio that the documents in TD Catherine Murphy’s possession contained “erroneous” figures and had been altered. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Controversy over the right to publish comments about Denis O’Brien’s banking arrangements made in the Dáil by Independent TD Catherine Murphy saw the intervention of a senior Fine Gael Minister yesterday. He described the situation as being “exceptionally serious”.

Mr O’Brien’s spokesman James Morrissey claimed on RTÉ Radio that the documents in Ms Murphy’s possession contained “erroneous” figures and had been altered.

Ms Murphy speaking on the same programme said she was reserving her right to take legal action against individuals who had made comments outside the Dáil about her statements.

The Irish Times will apply to the High Court onTuesday morning, separately to RTÉ, to seek confirmation that the statements can be reported after Mr O’Brien had previously secured an injunction.

Fine Gael Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe was commenting on Ms Murphy’s statement in the Dáil about Mr O’Brien’s dealings with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation not being reported .

“I do not believe it’s tenable that media outlets in Ireland cannot report on what is taking place in our parliament and media outlets outside of Ireland can and are. That is not acceptable,” he said.

Labour’s Pat Rabbitte said: “The obvious remedy is the speediest possible return to the court for clarification.

“No court said that you may not report on what happens in the Dáil,” he said. “We’ve all jumped ahead to this conclusion that the media are somehow disbarred as a result of an injunction served by Mr O’Brien against a particular broadcast.”

That order was also directed at any person or media outlet on notice of it, including The Irish Times.

Alan Dukes

Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes defended his claim that what Ms Murphy had said was wrong. “It’s very hard to sit by and see yourself painted as a kind of evil genius and not do anything about it, but I stand by what I said,” Mr Dukes said.

“She is basically alleging that there was a very special consideration given to Denis O’Brien and it was not done through proper processes in the bank. That’s wrong.”

Ms Murphy described Mr Duke’s comments as “outrageous”. She said she had an obligation to act on information that came to her “in good faith”.

“Of course people are entitled to their good name and to have their commercial interests respected, but the people have rights too. It’s about balancing those rights,” she said.

Editor of The Irish Times Kevin O’Sullivan said the organisation “would very much have wished” to bring the matter to court before Tuesday, but that was the first opportunity to make an application.