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Cowen issues legal challenge to Sinn Féin's Ó Caoláin

The Taoiseach challenges the Sinn Féin Dáil leader to repeat his claims about the Anglo dinner outside of the Dáil.

BRIAN COWEN today challenged an opposition TD to repeat claims about his relationship with senior officials from Anglo Irish Bank outside of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil earlier today, Cowen told Sinn Féin’s Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin that he would “see you in court” if he was to repeat allegations about Cowen’s relationship with Seán FitzPatrick and other senior figures in the now-nationalised bank, without Dáil privilege.

“There’s no relevance whatever to me having a dinner in relation to what I do in the course of my duties,” Cowen told Ó Caoláin. “If you have any evidence to the contrary, don’t abuse the privilege of this house.

“Go outside, and say it, and I’ll see you in court. It’s as simple as that. Because Deputy, I’m quite sick and tired listening to the rhetoric coming from that quarter about truthfulness, about honesty, about straight dealing, about recognising what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Under the Constitution, TDs and Senators cannot be sued for defamation on the basis of any speech made in the Houses of the Oireachtas – meaning that members of the Houses are essentially allowed to say what they wish on the public record.

If the same statements were to be made outside of the Dáil, a member could face a defamation charge if their statement is found to be untrue – a charge Cowen evidently thinks he could make.

Cowen’s response had come after Ó Caoláin had asked why former Anglo chief executive, David Drumm, had given a conflicting account of the pair’s dealings.

Listen to the Dáil exchanges here >

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Gavan Reilly

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