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Denis O'Brien Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
Media ownership

Pat Rabbitte: I've no concerns about Denis O'Brien's invite to Irish economic forum

The Communications Minister was asked this morning if he was equating media magnate Denis O’Brien with China. He denied he was.

A CABINET MINISTER has insisted he has no concerns about the invitation extended to the media tycoon Denis O’Brien to attend the Global Irish Economic Forum later this year.

Pat Rabbitte was asked about the invitation extended to O’Brien – who owns six radio stations and 30 per cent of Independent News and Media and was the subject of adverse findings by the Moriarty Tribunal – but said that the purpose of the forum is to encourage “as much investment as we can” into Ireland.

“I didn’t know that he has been invited, but you know, I don’t know what kind of test you’d expect the government to cause invitees to the Global Economic Forum to jump through,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“I mean what we are attempting to do here is to use networking arrangements and diaspora to encourage as much investment as we can and that involves inviting a number of very prominent global businessmen, who assert some affection for this country and some interest in the development of this country, to the forum.”

O’Brien’s invite to the 2011 forum at Dublin Castle caused some disquiet at the time while his later appearance on at the New York Stock Exchange with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other businessmen and women was also criticised.

Two years ago, the Moriarty Tribunal found that former Minister for Communications Michael Lowry had an “insidious and pervasive” influence over how the second mobile phone licence was awarded to Denis O’Brien’s company, Esat Digifone, in 1996. O’Brien has rejected these findings.

In response to a question about whether he had any concerns about the invitation extended to O’Brien to attend this year’s forum in October, Rabbitte, a Labour TD, said he did not have any concerns about it.

“I mean the purpose of this forum is to look at what can be done to nurture economic development in Ireland, to attract investment in Ireland and so on. I think if we were to start compiling criteria about with whom we do business…

I mean for example we are actively seeking to do business with China. I don’t necessarily agree with everything that the regime in China does.

Does that mean I don’t do business with China and that we don’t go on trade missions and try to attract investment here and sell our goods to China? I don’t think it does.”

Asked if he was equating Denis O’Brien to China, Rabbitte said he was not and added: “I’m, eh, equating attracting investment in this country in terms of how we seek to do that and I don’t think that limiting our scope to do that in the global capitalist economy in which we operate would be sensible.”

Read: Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond among five Irishmen on Forbes rich list

Read: Broadcasting Authority ‘not obliged’ to review Denis O’Brien’s media holdings

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