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High Court

Denis O'Brien says he and his family received death threats following Dáil disclosure

The billionaire has taken the stand at the High Court this morning.

1/12/2016 Denis O Brien Court Cases Denis O'Brien leaving the Four Courts this afternoon Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

Updated 13.40

BILLIONAIRE DENIS O’BRIEN has claimed that he and his family received death threats following disclosures made about him in Dáil Éireann in 2015.

O’Brien took the stand at the High Court today as part of his action against a Dáil committee.

The businessman alleges that the Committee on Procedure and Privilege (CPP) erred in ruling that TDs Catherine Murphy and Pearse Doherty didn’t break Dáil rules in revealing information that was allegedly prejudicial to a separate action taken by O’Brien against RTÉ in May and June 2015.

He is not seeking damages.

Under cross-examination from barrister Michael Collins, O’Brien said that as a result of speeches made by Murphy and Doherty he and his family received death threats in May 2015.

“I reported these threats to gardaí on 5 June,” O’Brien said.

They were threats to me and the life of my family. They occurred on 31 May.

While acknowledging that he has received many “nasty” messages in the past, O’Brien said “I have never received anything of that nature”.

These were probably the most serious threats I have received.

O’Brien’s statements to his own legal team took a matter of minutes. His cross-examination by legal counsel for both the Dáil and the Attorney General stretched to just under an hour and a half.

When leaving the Four Courts complex having completed his testimony the businessman, who owns multiple Irish radio stations and is the largest shareholder in Independent News and Media, faced a less-than-friendly reception from members of the public.

He was repeatedly heckled as he walked a gauntlet of photographers outside, before climbing into a car and being sped away.

O’Brien asserted in his testimony that he was taking this current action against the Dáil committee in an attempt to have the courts rebuke the two TDs for their actions in disclosing his “private banking information” given that the Committee on Procedure and Privilege had not done so.

He said that he wants it to be the case that “what happened to me on the floor of the Dáil can never happen to anyone again”.

“There needs to be a certain remedy to amend how these debates are conducted.”

1/12/2016 Denis O Brien Court Cases O'Brien, pictured outside the Four Courts Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

He said that the case was one of the utmost importance for both him “and for the country”:

It is a very bad thing for a country to have a situation where people who rely on the courts have their case unravelled by a different part of the same country.

“People would take it that such a situation would be on a checklist of things for those people before they would invest in that country. It would be considered a weakness,” he said.


Earlier, O’Brien told his own counsel Michael Cush that “if every every citizen was subject to disclosure of their private bank details it would be a pretty extraordinary situation, to have their privacy invaded, that was the reason why I sought the court order against RTÉ”.

“We could have a situation where Oireachtas members could be asked to ask questions in the Dáil,” he said.

O’Brien agreed with Collins that he saw Murphy and Doherty’s statements as “false and inaccurate” and a “deliberate abuse of parliamentary privilege”.

“The fundamental point I’m trying to make: if personal banking files are stolen and given to an Oireachtas member, then that member of the Oireachtas should go to the gardaí rather than reading them out in the Oireachtas.”

Asked by Collins whether or not he considered Catherine Murphy’s statements as being a “calculated device to frustrate” his court action, O’Brien replied “absolutely”.

“In my mind there was. Debate time in the Dáil was used by Deputies Murphy and Doherty to open up and ventilate certain information,” he said.

I think we’re in new territory. The Deputies in the Dáil knew exactly what they were doing.
It was very well planned and thought out. One Deputy was actually tweeting and speaking at the same time.

O’Brien expressed particular dissatisfaction that the CPP had leaked its final decision regarding his initial complaint four days before it was due to be published.

“My impression is that the CPP didn’t behave particularly well, in leaking their decision,” he said.

I felt they didn’t investigate properly, and then they leaked their decision. There are questions to be asked as to confidence in them as a body.
The real situation is that as a citizen I went into the High Court and got a court order, and that was deliberately unravelled by two members of the Oireachtas, and I made a complaint to the CPP, and to my mind that wasn’t handled particularly well.

The case continues.

Comments are disabled as the case remains before the courts

Read: Denis O’Brien alleges that TDs prejudiced his case against RTÉ with Dáil speeches

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