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Denis O'Brien's appeal over Red Flag dossier dismissed

The businessman claimed the dossier was part of a campaign to damage his reputation.

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE COURT OF Appeal (COA) has dismissed Denis O’Brien’s attempt to find out the identity of a person who commissioned Red Flag Consulting to compile a dossier of material about him.

O’Brien had appealed against the High Court’s refusal to order the public relations and lobbying firm to reveal the identity of the client.

The billionaire businessman claimed a dossier about him compiled by Red Flag for a client was part of a campaign to defame him and damage his reputation.

In its ruling today, the three-judge COA noted: “In October 2014, the plaintiff, Mr Denis O’Brien, came into possession of a USB memory stick in circumstances with which the court is not concerned so far as this discovery appeal is concerned.

“The device held a dossier relating to Mr O’Brien consisting of memoranda, drafts of a speech by a TD (Fianna Fáil’s Colm Keaveney) and media articles. He claims that the materials are of a most negative and disparaging nature.”

Red Flag Consulting denies O’Brien’s assertions. The firm counts former Independent News and Media (INM) CEO Gavin O’Reilly as one of its directors and Karl Brophy, a former INM journalist, as its chief executive. O’Brien is the chief shareholder in INM.

The COA agreed with the previous rulings in the case. It also dismissed a cross-appeal by Red Flag against orders requiring it to disclose certain documents that could reveal the client’s identity.

‘Malicious’ motives

In the ruling document, COA President Mr Justice Sean Ryan, Mr Justice Michael Peart and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan stated: “Red Flag, as a consultancy, does not have to ensure that its clients’ motives are pure, legitimate and not simply hostile or “malicious”…

Red Flag’s client was entitled to have the dossier prepared, even if this was done for the basest of motives. That in itself is not sufficient to establish a conspiracy on the part of that client or to demonstrate that Red Flag was itself a co-conspirator with the client.

“If the Dossier was actually published by Red Flag and it has defamed the plaintiff, then Mr O’Brien has his remedy under the Defamation Act 2009. But … the plaintiff is not entitled to ascertain the identity of that client by means of seeking discovery from Red Flag.”

Read: The company installing Irish Water meters has racked up multimillion-euro profits

Read: D4 locals launch bid to block €50 million Denis O’Brien-backed apartment block

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