Court rules Denis O’Brien can appeal directly to Supreme Court over statements made by TDs

Businessman Denis O’Brien has got permission to appeal directly to the Supreme Court over the dismissal of his case against the Dail and State over statements made by two TDs in the Dail about his banking affairs.

Mr O’Brien is also appealing an order requiring him to pay the estimated €1m legal costs of his failed High Court action.

His appeal will run in tandem with a separate Supreme Court appeal by former Rehab CEO Angle Kerins against the rejection of her challenge over her treatment at two Dail Public Accounts Committee hearings into payments to Rehab.

Both appeals raise similar issue concerning the constitutional separation of powers and the courts’ ability to intervene in decisions and proceedings of Houses and Committees of the Oireachtas.

A hearing date for the two appeals will be set later but they will be case managed together in the interim.

An appeal to the Supreme Court may only be brought if that court considers a case raises issues of general public importance meriting such an appeal or the court considers an appeal is necessary in the interests of justice.

A three judge Supreme Court has agreed to permit Mr O’Brien an appeal on grounds of the importance of the issues raised.

The appeal is against the clerk of the Dail, the Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges and the State.

His proceedings arose from statements made on separate dates in summer 2015 by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty after Mr O’Brien got court injunctions restraining RTE publicising that information.

In her High Court judgement dismissing the case last March, Ms Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh held that what Mr O’Brien sought was prohibited by the separation of powers under the Constitution and would have a "chilling effect" on parliamentary speech into the future.

She upheld the core defence argument that Article 15 of the Constitution immunises Dail "utterances" from suit or scrutiny by courts or tribunals.

The judge later awarded the estimated €1m costs of the action against Mr O’Brien.

KEYWORDS: Denis OBrien


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