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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# SiteServ
O'Brien questions use of privilege, Murphy defends raising matters of public concern
Mr Justice Brian Cregan’s final report has been published.

THE FINAL REPORT of the Siteserv inquiry finds there were “difficult issues” in investigating claims by anonymous sources that turned out to be untrue, while “some may have been partially factually accurate”.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan said in a final report on his work that some TDs received documentary evidence from anonymous sources which were sent to the commission. However, the identities of the sources were never revealed.

Such information “risked undermining the constitutional protections of certain witnesses” to cross-examine their accusers, he said.

It recommended that the Oireachtas be “very cautious” about establishing any future commission or tribunal which relied heavily on information from such unidentifiable sources. 

The Commission of Investigation on Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) took seven years to complete.

The investigation into the sale of Siteserv to a company controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien cost the State €19 million, the Dáil heard yesterday. 

The report itself outlined costs of €17.5 million, including €1.5 million in VAT. 


The Commission of Investigation was established in early 2015 and produced its report into the transaction in July 2022.

It concluded the sale to Denis O’Brien in 2012 was approved in good faith but was based on ‘misleading’ information provided by Siteserv to the IBRC.

It found the sale was “tainted by impropriety” from the perspective of the State-owned IBRC – formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

At the time of the sale, the Department of Finance had considerable concerns about the Siteserv deal, including, among other issues, the handling of other bidders and the payment of €5 million to shareholders.

These issues did not come to light until Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy released documents she obtained under Freedom of Information that exposed the significant tensions between the Department and the state-owned bank.

In a statement issued today, businessman Denis O’Brien made reference to Murphy, raising concerns about the allegations made against him.

O’Brien said he wrote to Murphy “on a number of occasions refuting” the claims made against him. 

The businessman raised issues with the use of Dáil privilege and claims by anonymous individuals.

“In the future, there should be a mechanism in place by which a Commission could seek Dail approval to stand down its work in the event that a person making unsubstantiated allegations under Dail privilege refuses to give evidence and fails to furnish documentary evidence supporting the allegations,” he said. 

“Dáil privilege is a central pillar of our democracy… At the time the allegations by Deputy Murphy were first aired, I said I respected the concept of Dáil privilege, and I still do,” he said, adding that he believes it has been compromised.

In a statement to The Journal this afternoon, Murphy said the findings of Mr Justice Cregan’s report into the Siteserv transaction speak for themselves.

“The phrase ‘tainted with impropriety’ is mentioned on 44 separate occasions in the body of the report. The report is clear that the integrity of the sales process was undermined from the start and the deal was not commercially sound. The biggest loser in all of this was the State, given IBRC could have recovered up to €8.7 million more than the €44.3 million it agreed to accept in settlement of Siteserv’s indebtedness.

“I make no apology for raising matters of serious public concern under privilege in the Dáil and the Siteserv deal was a matter of serious public concern. In the time I have spent as a TD, I have used parliamentary privilege very sparingly on very rare occasions – and always in pursuit of transparency, accountability and the national interest,” she said.  

In the commission’s final report, Justice Cregan said that the public and the Oireachtas wants “urgent and speedy” investigations into matters of significant concern, and therefore there is a need to streamline public inquiries by establishing a permanent commission of investigation. 

He said it is now “impossible to conduct” inquiries in the modern era in an expeditious manner while complying with the “onerous requirements of fair procedures laid down by the courts” and the requirements of the Commissions of Investigation Act, 2004. 

He suggested that a judge of the superior courts would chair the new commission, and that it would be allowed to hear witness evidence in private on deposition, rather than oral hearings with all parties present. The oral hearings took 250 days to complete in this investigation, he said. 

A Government spokesperson said the Minister for Justice Simon Harris (and Helen McEntee on her return) will now consider the suggestions for reform of the commission in its final report, in consultation with the Oireachtas where appropriate, and report back to Government.

It is the Government’s view that the suggestions made for reform of the commission  process merit consideration given widespread concern about the cost and timeliness of this and other Commissions of Investigation.