Insanity Rules In Ireland: Media Ordered Not To Report On Parliamentary Speech
from the streisand-goes-to-ireland dept
Over in Ireland, it appears that some are not all that familiar with the Streisand Effect. Yesterday, an Irish member of Parliament, Catherine Murphy, gave a speech in which she detailed some charges against an Irish media tycoon, Denis O?Brien, claiming that the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, was giving him ridiculously favorable terms on bank loans. Here’s the main chunk of it:
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.
Now, you may notice that Murphy mentions that O’Brien is trying to get an injunction to stop that information from being made public. Apparently, that even extends to what is said in Parliament — because O’Brien then successfully got an injunction barring the Irish media from reporting on this. He apparently claimed that this was all a “breach of his privacy rights.”
The three-day injunction hearing was told Mr O?Brien wanted to restrain publication of the broadcast report because it breached his privacy rights and would cause him incalculable commercial damage.
IBRC, which brought a separate but related application before the court, supported his case.
Apparently a bunch of people in Ireland still haven’t heard about the Streisand Effect. Because now the story is blowing up everywhere. Oh, and if you’re interested, you can even see the speech here:
And it does seem to be backfiring in Ireland as well. While such injunctions are all too common in Ireland (and nearby in the UK, for that matter), the fact that it’s flat out censoring a Parliamentary speech appears to have broken new ground that has a lot of people up in arms:
But the extension of the terms of that injunction to cover a parliamentary speech has shocked the Irish media community, not to mention the public.
It had extraordinary effects. For example, RTÉ reporter Philip Boucher Hayes tweeted yesterday afternoon that the Drivetime show was about to play Murphy?s speech, but the piece was not broadcast and his tweet was later deleted.
RTÉ news bulletins mentioned that Murphy had spoken but didn?t quote what she had said or play clips. Online reports quoting Murphy were removed, stating only that Murphy had spoken about O?Brien. Similarly, the Irish Times?s report was silent on what Murphy said but it did provide a link to her speech on the Oireachtas site. (Evidently – hat tip: Padraig Reidy – the Irish Times did initially report her words).
The report on the matter by Ireland?s best-selling daily newspaper, the Irish Independent, said: ?Mr O?Brien successfully stopped RTÉ from broadcasting the details which Ms Murphy raised in the Dá il?.
Whatever short term benefit O’Brien and his lawyers thought they were getting with this injunction, it appears not to have worked very well.