File photo. Denis O'Brien Leah Farrell/
Dáil privilege

Denis O'Brien court cases have cost the State €340k in barrister fees

O’Brien had taken High Court and Supreme Court cases over utterances in the Dáil in a debate on Siteserv in 2015.

THE OIREACHTAS HAS paid a total of €341,097.45 to three barristers who represented the State in High Court and Supreme Court cases brought by businessman Denis O’Brien.

A briefing note provided to the Public Accounts Committee, and seen by, outlines the payments made to counsel regarding the cases taken by O’Brien.

While the House of the Oireachtas has an in-house legal team, three barristers were enlisted to represent the State in court.

The cases that came before the courts related to a 2015 Dáil debate about the sale of Siteserv.

O’Brien had argued that his privacy was breached by two TDs – Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, and the Social Democrats’ Catherine Murphy – who gave statements to the Dáil during that debate.

The businessman alleged that those statements breached his constitutional right to privacy.

Those same statements were subsequently declared to be protected under privilege by the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privilege (CPP), the committee against which the High Court action was based.

In May 2017, the High Court ruled in favour of the Clerk of the Dáil and the Dáil Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP).

In March 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from O’Brien on the matter

In the note to the Public Accounts Committee, it says that the Supreme Court determined that the Oireachtas was entitled to the costs of the High Court and that both sides were to bear their own courts regarding the Supreme Court appeal. 

The Oireachtas in-house legal team is currently in a process to recoup the legal fees paid to counsel in relation to High Court proceedings.

To date, the Oireachtas has paid €136,948 to Sara Moorhead SC, €118.824 to Michael M Collins SC and €85,325 to David Fennelly BL.

With reporting from Christina Finn