Oireachtas sources believe Catherine Murphy did not break Dáil rules

Independent TD did not abuse privilege when commenting about Dennis O’Brien

Catherine Murphy: her comments in the Dáil were published on the Oireachtas website. Photograph: Alan Betson

Catherine Murphy: her comments in the Dáil were published on the Oireachtas website. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Houses of the Oireachtas sources claim Independent TD Catherine Murphy did not abuse Dáil rules or privilege when making comments about businessman Denis O’Brien.

The sources say their initial belief is that “standing orders were not breached and privilege was not abused” by Ms Murphy while moving a Private Members’ Bill through the Dáil on Thursday night.

Mr O’Brien secured an injunction preventing RTÉ from broadcasting a report on the substance of the subject at the centre of Ms Murphy’s comments. The order was also directed at any person or media outlet on notice of it, including The Irish Times.

Oireachtas sources said they believe the current situation whereby the contents of a Dáil speech are not being reported to be unprecedented.

There were numerous requests yesterday for the Government to recall the Dáil from its break next week to discuss the issue, but it has declined to do so.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he wrote to Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett asking for the recall “in light of grave developments involving the silencing of media outlets in relation to Dáil business”.

‘Cornerstone’

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also said the Dáil should be recalled, describing parliamentary privilege as “a cornerstone of how the Oireachtas operates”.

“Protected by the Constitution, TDs and Senators must be secure in the knowledge that they can speak freely and frankly on issues of grave national importance.”

The Ceann Comhairle can only recall the Dáil at the request of the Taoiseach and the Government has said the House will not sit again until June 9th, when time will be made available to discuss the issue.

Website

Ms Murphy’s comments in the Dáil were published on the Oireachtas website, and it is understood neither Mr O’Brien nor his representatives have contacted Oireachtas authorities.

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton said Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton had “a responsibility to come out and dispel public concern that a legal fire-blanket has been cast over freedom of speech in the Republic”.

“Outside of recent acts by Mary Lou Mc Donald and Sinn Féin, the principle of Dáil privilege has rarely been abused. Were it not for Dáil privilege the financial affairs of Ray Burke, Liam Lawlor, Charles Haughey, Michael Lowry and Denis O’Brien would not have been unveiled.”

It is understood William Fry on behalf of their client Denis O’Brien considered making a High Court application yesterday. But by yesterday evening, when the duty judge left the Four Courts, no such application had been made.

It is understood the application was contemplated in relation to the publication by the website Broadsheet.ie of the full statement made by Ms Murphy in the Dáil about Mr O’Brien’s finances. It was contacted by solicitors on Thursday and asked to remove the post, claiming it was in breach of the High Court order in O’Brien v RTÉ.

The site was given a deadline of 7pm, but did not remove the post.