O’Brien respects Dáil privilege as long as it is not ‘exploited’

Businessman concurs ‘absolutely’ with fundamental right to ‘one’s good name’

Denis O’Brien said: “I wish to state that I respect Dáil privilege as long as it is not exploited in a manner designed to damage the reputation of an individual, particularly one who is not before the House and entitled to Dáil privilege.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Denis O’Brien said: “I wish to state that I respect Dáil privilege as long as it is not exploited in a manner designed to damage the reputation of an individual, particularly one who is not before the House and entitled to Dáil privilege.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Businessman Denis O’Brien said on Saturday he respects Dáil privilege as long as it is not “exploited in a manner designed to damage the reputation of an individual”.

Mr O’Brien’s comments follow the condemnation by leading members of the Government and Opposition of his decision to sue members of the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP).

Mr O’Brien has accused the committee of breaching his constitutional rights and interfering with the role of the courts.

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.

In a statement issued on Saturday by the businessman’s spokesman, James Morrissey, Mr O’Brien said he was seeking legal recourse because he believed the CPP had “failed to properly investigate complaints about abuse of Dáil privilege by Catherine Murphy TD and Pearse Doherty TD, abuse which resulted in the compromising of Orders handed down by the High Court”.

He continued: “I wish to state that I respect Dáil privilege as long as it is not exploited in a manner designed to damage the reputation of an individual, particularly one who is not before the House and entitled to Dáil privilege.”

Mr O’Brien wrote that he concurred “absolutely” with the statement made by the CPP on April 1st, 2015 which said: “CPP is of the view that the right to one’s good name is a fundamental right, and persons outside the House should not be referred to in a manner which would adversely affect their good names or reputations.

The CPP statement continued: “The Constitution confers absolute privilege on members of Dáil Éireann in respect of their utterances in the House, and CPP is of the view that under no circumstances should this be abused.”

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett said earlier this week he found Mr O’Brien’s case against the CPP “extraordinary” and highlighted the potential cost to the State of the legal proceedings being taken against a Dáil committee by the businessman.

“The only thing the CPP did was deal with a complaint made regarding [Independent TD] Catherine Murphy and, having examined the case, the committee decided that there was no case against her,” Mr Barrett told The Irish Times.

“If you read what Ms Murphy said in the Dáil, she is saying: ‘I am led to understand that.’ She was not making a direct charge.

“The only problem I have is the cost to the taxpayer and them being forced into paying for cases in the High Court.”