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Sunday 26 March 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Leah Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Denis O'Brien begins injunction case against RTÉ - reporting restrictions imposed on media
The businessman is seeking to prevent the broadcast of a news story in which he features.

Updated 4.32 pm

THE JUDGE HEARING Denis O’Brien’s injunction application against RTÉ has granted an order restricting the reporting of certain details of the case.

The order was sought by lawyers for Denis O’Brien and was also supported by the special liquidators for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

O’Brien is seeking the injunction against an item to be featured on RTÉ’s Six One News by David Murphy. O’Brien claims the report contains details of his private finances.

Michael Cush SC, on behalf of O’Brien, told Judge Donald Binchy that without the ‘limited’ restrictions, the information would be made public as part of the injunction proceedings.

The restrictions only apply until a decision is taken on the injunction application.

RTÉ, represented by David Holland SC, had opposed the order for reporting restrictions.

Granting the order, Judge Binchy said that not doing so would “fly in the face of common sense”.

He commented that O’Brien was not seeking to have the case heard in camera or to have his name kept private.

The planned RTÉ news report features content from a letter from Denis O’Brien to KPMG liquidator Kieran Wallace that contained details of his total indebtedness to IBRC and the speed at which he was repaying it.

Lawyers for O’Brien argued that if the information became public it would harm him “personally and financially”.

Michael Collins SC, acting on behalf of IBRC’s liquidators, said that the contents of the letter should not be made public because the information was privileged and Wallace considered the document to be “stolen”.

After the judge granted the order restricting reporting of the case, the parties to the dispute came to an agreement as to what exactly was restricted.

‘Major debtor’

Lawyers outlined three separate details from the report that are not covered by the restrictions. These included that O’Brien was a “major debtor to IBRC” .

It also included comments that Catherine Murphy TD made under Dáil privilege last week in which in which she said O’Brien had written to Kieran Wallace in his role as special liquidator seeking the same terms he had with IBRC.

The third aspect the upon which there are no restrictions is the assertion made in the news report “we don’t know how this issue was resolved”.

Cush said that RTÉ has itself acknowledged that the focus of the story is not so much about O’Brien’s finances but on the governance of IBRC. In that case, he questioned the need for O’Brien to be named at all.

For RTÉ, Holland argued that the broadcaster “has approached this matter in a responsible manner”. He added that if someone was to read the transcript of the news item they would be “struck with the level of responsibility”.

Arguing against the reporting restrictions, Holland said that, “RTÉ, perhaps above all other State institutions, is charged with the defence of press freedom.”

The news report was originally scheduled to be broadcast on 1 May.

IBRC is also seeking an injunction to prevent the broadcast.