Kenny rules out Dáil debate on Denis O’Brien legal challenge

Taoiseach ‘strongly’ advises House to authorise defence to businessman’s challenge

The Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges is the subject of a legal action taken by Denis O’Brien (above), who has accused the committee of breaching his constitutional rights and interfering with the role of the courts and has sued the members personally. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

The Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges is the subject of a legal action taken by Denis O’Brien (above), who has accused the committee of breaching his constitutional rights and interfering with the role of the courts and has sued the members personally. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out a Dáil debate on a legal challenge taken by businessman Denis O’Brien.

Mr Kenny said the issue was legally complex and “very sensitive”, and could not be discussed in the chamber.

However, the Taoiseach said he “strongly advised” the House to authorise a defence of the challenge.

The Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges is the subject of a legal action taken by Mr O’Brien, who has accused the committee of breaching his constitutional rights and interfering with the role of the courts and has sued the members personally.

He has also named Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett and Attorney General Máire Whelan in the case. Mr O’Brien took the decision to sue the committee after it ruled that Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty had not abused privilege when they made claims against him in the Dáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said on Tuesday the issue was “fundamental” in that the Dáil is now being challenged.

Serious concerns

He had very serious concerns, he said, about the action and “at the very least a debate should be facilitated”.

The Dáil passed a motion to support the committee and to allow it to contest the action.

The committee has instructed senior counsel Sara Moorhead and barrister David Fennelly to vigorously defend these proceedings and, in particular, the absolute privilege of members of Dáil Éireann in respect of remarks made in the House.

In proceedings before the High Court, Mr O’Brien is seeking a declaration that the 10 TDs on the committee are guilty of an “unwarranted interference with the operation of the courts and have caused or permitted a breach” of his constitutional rights.

The businessman said article 40.31.1 of the Constitution guaranteed to respect, defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.

Mr O’Brien’s solicitors, William Fry, said this had not been not upheld by the Dáil committee.