Thursday 18 October 2018

Report minus O'Brien 'would just be boring'


Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien

THERE would have been no point in RTE broadcasting a report that "anonymised" businessman Denis O'Brien's affairs relating to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), the High Court has heard.

It would be just a boring report of the "Small earthquake in Chile: Not many dead" type that essentially sucks the lifeblood out of the story, said senior counsel David Holland, for RTE.

He was continuing his submissions in RTE's opposition to an application from Mr O'Brien and IBRC for an injunction preventing a broadcast report that the businessman says will invade his privacy.

Mr Holland said freedom of the press is the lifeblood of democracy, and for that to happen the blood "must actually flow".

Mr O'Brien's side had said this story could have been run without naming him.

The O'Brien side was asking the court to play a "game of journalistic jenga" in which bits of information are pulled out in the hope the whole thing will collapse, counsel said.


A story is not the sum of its individual parts, and the court should look at the story in the round if freedom of expression is to be vindicated.

Mr Holland also criticised a part of one of Mr O'Brien's affidavits in which he said that if the court did not grant the injunction, it would cause him and others to "review all arrangements" with Irish banks.

"No sovereign state or court should put up with that kind of threat," Mr Holland said.

Whether Mr O'Brien decides to locate his banking here or elsewhere is a matter for him, but it had nothing to do with the court's considerations.

Mr Holland also reiterated his argument that Mr O'Brien was not a private but a public figure by virtue of his business and media interests.

He also described as "specious" an argument by the O'Brien side that refusal to grant an injunction would make the businessman and others "fair game" for further disclosures by the media. He rejected a claim by the O'Brien side that other banks would be unwilling to deal with him.

He also said there was well-established law that prior restraint on publication, until the full hearing of the issue has taken place, can only be exercised by the courts in exceptional circumstances where it was clear the case would succeed at full trial. This was not one of those cases, he said.

Today, lawyers for Mr O'Brien and IBRC will reply.

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