Murphy did not abuse Dáil privilege with O’Brien comments

Denis O’Brien letters to Ceann Comhairle urged action over Murphy Dáil claims

Catherine Murphy speaking about IBRC and Denis O’Brien during Dáil proceedings on Thursday, May 28th, 2015.

Catherine Murphy speaking about IBRC and Denis O’Brien during Dáil proceedings on Thursday, May 28th, 2015.

 

The Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) has written to lawyers for businessman Denis O’Brien defending the right of Independent TD Catherine Murphy to avail of Dáil privilege.

The CPP, which is chaired by Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett, met last night to consider two letters from Mr O’Brien’s lawyers complaining that Ms Murphy had abused Dáil privilege and had breached the terms of a High Court injunction.

After taking advice from Oireachtas legal counsel Melissa English the CPP agreed a response in which it rejected the claim that Ms Murphy had abused Dáil privilege.

The CPP added it was not for it to say if the TD had breached the High Court order and it could make no judgment on whether her allegations were true or false until the Commission of Investigation into certain transactions of IRBC had issued its report.

Ms Murphy highlighted the sale by the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation of Siteserv to a company owned by Mr O’Brien in a Dáil speech about his banking arrangements.

The first letter from Mr O’Brien’s lawyers, William Fry, accused Ms Murphy of “knowingly and gratuitously” breaching the terms of a High Court injunction by making claims about his banking affairs under privilege over a week ago.

The letter, dated May 28th, said Mr O’Brien accepted and acknowledged freedom of speech in parliament was a fundamental constitutional right but the absence of “effective parliamentary procedures to prevent a member of the Oireachtas from abusing parliamentary privilege is a matter of grave concern.”

The second letter, dated May 29th, claimed Ms Murphy’s comments were not only a “flagrant” breach of the injunction “but also defamatory and, prima facie, an abuse of Dáil privilege”.

It accused Ms Murphy of having “acted irresponsibly, recklessly and in total disregard, not only of our client, but of the judiciary of the State”.

The lawyers said Mr O’Brien accepted and acknowledged that freedom of speech in parliament was a fundamental constitutional right.

However, the “non-existence” of “effective parliamentary procedures to prevent a member of the Oireachtas from abusing parliamentary privilege is a matter of grave concern”, according to Mr O’Brien’s lawyers.

The letter adds: “Our client wishes to lodge a formal complaint with you about the matter and requests confirmation of the steps you proposed to take to sanction Deputy Murphy for these breaches.”

Clarified

In a personal letter from Mr O’Brien to Mr Barrett, dated May 20th, the businessman said Ms Murphy “persisted in making false and inaccurate statements to the Dáil about my personal banking arrangements based on confidential information which she knew to have been stolen”.

Mr O’Brien said he was “not going to engage on the detail of the inaccuracies” concerning his personal banking information, which he said remained confidential to himself and the banking institution concerned.

He said: “No Deputy should be permitted to deliberately abuse parliamentary privilege particularly when the content of such abuse is inaccurate and is based on information or material that a Deputy knows to have been improperly obtained.”

The chairman and chief executive of Siteserv Sean Corkery also wrote to Mr Barrett saying he wished to avail of the Dáil’s standing orders “to have the untrue and defamatory allegation(s) corrected and the record amended accordingly”.

Ms Murphy has repeatedly said she was given the information by reliable sources in good faith. She has also said she had no knowledge of anything or any information provided to her having been stolen.