What Catherine Murphy TD Said In The Dail About Denis O’Brien

The Irish people are being denied the right to know about serious allegations being leveled at prominent Irish businessman and billionaire, Denis O’Brien by virtue of a High Court injunction forbidding RTE from broadcasting a programme about his controversial purchase of the infrastructure and utility support company, Siteserv.

In particular the programme is believed to have investigated his dealings with the liquidator of Siteserv, Kieran Wallace and the CEO of the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation, Mike Aynsley.

Denis O'Brien

Denis O’Brien

Mr O’Brien’s road to a business fortune began when, according to the Moriarty Tribunal, he almost certainly greased the palm of Government Minister of Communications, Michael Lowry in 1995 to secure a lucrative mobile phone contract on behalf of Esat Digiphone, a consortium he headed.

Similar allegations that he was shown favoritism over his purchase of Siteserv were aired in Dail Eireann yesterday by the Independent TD for Kildare, Catherine Murphy. She was able to defy the High Court injunction by invoking Parliamentary or Dail privilege, although leading Irish media outlets, such as The Irish Times, have declined to report her remarks in full.

So here are the words spoken in the Dail yesterday by Catherine Murphy. At least some Irish people will now be able to fully inform themselves about the reasons for Mr O’Brien’s injunction. (Note to Mr O’Brien’s lawyers: in America there is a thing called the First Amendment of the Constitution. Look it up. It is very enlightening. It has to do with free speech.)

Catherine Murphy TD

Catherine Murphy TD

Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill 2015: First Stage

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
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Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill 2015: First Stage

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I move:

    That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Act 1993 in order to make an addition to the First Schedule, to expand the areas under which an examination under section 9 may be conducted, and to provide for related matters.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (Amendment) Bill 2015 proposes to extend the functions and powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General to cover IBRC. It was the Taoiseach who first suggested that the Comptroller and Auditor General review the Siteserv sale process at which time it was pointed out to him that the IBRC does not come within the Comptroller and Auditor General’s remit. With this Bill, I am attempting to address that problem by broadening the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The reason I anticipate the need to involve the Comptroller and Auditor General, if not a full commission of inquiry which latter might well be a better option, is that the Government has got this matter badly wrong. That is not least because most of the key players in the Siteserv saga have links with KPMG and the eventual purchaser and vice versa. It is a web of connections and conflicts that requires outside eyes to unravel.

I have no doubt that the special liquidator is more than capable of carrying out such a review, but his direct involvement in the sale process, his relationship with the eventual purchaser of Siteserv and his current actions in the High Court in supporting Mr. Denis O’Brien against RTE place him in a position where there is, at the very least, a perceived if not an actual conflict of interest. The review is not confined to Siteserv, but that is the transaction that prompted a review in the first instance. I worry about the transactions that have been excluded from the review given what that we now know that in the final months before prom night, the relationship between the Department and IBRC had completely broken down. If deals were being done without the knowledge or input of the Minister, we must know what those were. We are now aware, for example, that the former CEO of IBRC made verbal agreements with Denis O’Brien to allow him to extend the terms of his already expired loans. We also know that the verbal agreement was never escalated to the credit committee for approval. I am led to believe and would welcome clarification by the Minister that the rates applicable to the extension were extremely favourable. I understand that Mr. O’Brien was enjoying a rate of approximately 1.25% when IBRC could, and arguably should, have been charging 7.5%. Given that we are talking about outstanding sums of upwards of €500 million, the interest rate applied is not an insignificant issue for the public interest. We also know that Denis O’Brien felt confident enough in his dealings with IBRC that he could write to Kieran Wallace, the special liquidator, to demand that the same favourable terms extended to him by way of a verbal agreement be continued. We now have Kieran Wallace, who has been appointed by the Government to conduct the IBRC review, joining with IBRC and Denis O’Brien in the High Court to seek to injunct the information I have outlined from coming into the public domain. Surely, that alone represents a conflict.

In documents released to me under freedom of information, the Minister, his officials, the Central Bank and even the troika acknowledge that IBRC – the former Anglo Irish Bank – is no ordinary bank and that there is a significant public interest as the bank was fully nationalised and was in wind-down mode. They all accept that this is the people’s money we are dealing with and that there can be no dispute regarding the public interest in this. The same materials obtained under freedom of information detail instances where the Minister can specifically intervene and issue a ministerial order that material matters have a significant public interest. Included in these material matters are instances that are outside the ordinary course of business. I argue that what I have outlined here regarding verbal deals and extensions etc. are outside the normal course of business and ask the Minister to exercise his right to intervene in the current proceedings to defend the public interest.

I have a motion on the Order Paper signed by the majority of Opposition Members calling for a debate on the proposed review. I note that 45 Members have signed and more are welcome to. When I tried to raise the matter on the Order of Business, I was silenced and told to take it up with my Whip. I am the Whip of the Technical Group and I had raised the matter at the weekly Whips’ meeting. The Government Chief Whip told me that the Government would not be altering the KPMG review and that it would not provide time to debate this issue. He suggested that we use Private Members’ time. This is not just an Opposition issue; it is an issue for the whole House. It is an issue of serious public concern involving public money. If the Minister opposite, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, got his hands on an extra €20 million, he would not have to think too hard about how to spend it. I urge the Government to reconsider this matter and to give the Bill and the motion the time they deserve. It is in the public interest to do so.

14 responses to “What Catherine Murphy TD Said In The Dail About Denis O’Brien

  1. Well done to Catherine Murphy, TD for introducing her Bill which if passed would allow the Comptroller and Auditor General investigate matters of public concern as listed by her in the Dail on the 28th May 2015. In the interests of Irish citizens, free speech, transparency and democracy she should be supported and congratulated by all. RTE as the main public broadcaster must not be prevented in carrying out its role.

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  3. Reblogged this on Machholz's Blog and commented:
    We must not allow a Tax dogging billionaire to now try and silence our TD,s and to try and steal our free speech as well seen as he has already stolen the wealth of our country already!

  4. We must not allow a Tax dogging billionaire to now try and silence our TD,s and to try and steal our free speech : He has control of most of the Media of Ireland and the RTE are also keeping his activities well out of the public eye as their political masters are all in his pocket too! This corporate parasite who has made billions off the backs of the people of Ireland must have all his financial affairs scrutinize and his “TAX ” status must be changed! It is prosperous that a billionaire can earn billions from the taxpayers of Ireland and he can just leave with paying any taxes?

  5. This has a very unpleasant smell indeed.. well done Mr Broken Elbow for outing it here.

    Gwan Catherine ye girl ye.

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  8. No friend of O Brien agree about Esat/Lowery but everything that Catherine Murphy said is on the Oireachtas website which is available to everyone who bothers to look, the injunction is on RTE not on the Oireachtas.

    http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20authoring/debateswebpack.nsf/takes/dail2015052800027?opendocument#Z00100.

    It is no big deal to find out what she said and it isn’t censored.

    A lot of politicians are trying to make hay out of this as is RTE, and alot of politicians (C Daly and Mary Lou) are beginning to abuse privilege for their own cynical ends.

    • i don’t think you understand. the availability of the speech on the oireachtas website is not the point. it is that the media has decided that the court injunction over-rides dail privilege. that means fat cats with expensive lawyers are more pwerful than elected reps. ok??

  9. ‘absolute rage’ is no substitute for reasoned and non-libellous accusations. This childish name-calling and hysteria does nothing to get at the truth- which is what we all want.

  10. The Chairman of Anglo/IRBC said there was no truth in what she said in the Dail. So whats the big deal outing something which would stain a persons character only to find out after, its all lies … He can`t sue her ! Dail Privilege Lark

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