Denis O'Brien: High court injunction prevents Irish media reporting on businessman's finances

Denis O'Brien
Image caption Businessman Denis O'Brien obtained an injunction preventing Irish media outlets from reporting on certain details of his finances

Ireland's richest man has used a high court injunction to prevent the country's media covering details of his personal finances that were mentioned in parliament.

Media mogul Denis O'Brien has a fortune estimated to be around £5bn.

The purchase of one of his companies has been discussed in the Dáil [Irish parliament].

But media have been unable to report that due to an injunction deemed to outweigh parliamentary privilege.

Mr O'Brien has extensive media and telecommunication interests around the world and is the biggest shareholder in Independent News and Media, the company that owns the Belfast Telegraph.

He first began to make serious money when he won the second mobile phone licence in the Republic of Ireland.


The subsidiary of Siteserv, one of the companies he owns, is currently involved in installing the controversial meters for the highly unpopular water charges in Ireland.

Catherine Murphy, a left-wing independent politician, has obtained details through freedom of information requests about the sale of the company to Mr O'Brien by the nationalised former Anglo Irish Bank, now the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation or IBRC.

£75m (105m euros) of taxpayers' money was written-off in that deal.

But Mr O'Brien obtained an injunction stopping Ireland's national broadcaster RTÉ and other media outlets from reporting on certain details of his personal finances and his relationship with the former Anglo-Irish bank.

On Thursday, Miss Murphy said in the Dáil that there was a significant public interest in Mr O'Brien's finances.

She added that there are large outstanding sums and that the interest rate he was paying should arguably be much higher.

The Irish media have not been able to report the detail of what Miss Murphy said because the Dáil's privilege is outweighed by the high court injunction.

But the information is available on the Dáil website and in the media beyond the island of Ireland.

Because of the injunction, the BBC can only report that Mr O'Brien was a major debtor to the former Anglo Irish Bank, and that when his loans had expired he sought the same terms from the bank that had allowed him to pay off his own loans in his own time at low interest rates.


Late on Friday afternoon, RTÉ said it would be making an application to the high court next week for permission to broadcast Miss Murphy's statements in the Dáil.

The broadcaster said it had "consistently maintained that greater levels of disclosure is in the public interest; however we have complied fully with the court's decision".

Mr O'Brien is a noted philanthropist with an interest in human rights and was involved in bringing the Special Olympics to Ireland in 2003.

But his critics describe him as a tax exile.

They point out that the Moriarty tribunal into suspected corruption found that, in the 1990s, Mr O'Brien received assistance from the then Fine Gael communications minister Michael Lowry in securing a mobile phone licence.

Mr Lowry received large sums from Mr O'Brien in complex financial transactions.

Both men have strongly denied any wrongdoing and no criminal charges were ever brought in relation to the findings.

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