As he prepares for the hols, Denis shares his thoughts on life in business, with his fellow billionaire, Dermot.
D E N I S O’ B R I E N
I woke up in Haiti on the morning of April 29th to a phone message saying that RTÉ had sent me a letter with questions regarding my confidential banking arrangements with Anglo Irish Bank/ IBRC. My immediate reaction was astonishment – astonishment – that RTÉ could be used in such a way, so deliberately, to set out to damage me. Sitting over breakfast in Haiti I knew I had an immediate decision to make. I was obliged to take a stand to protect privacy and confidentiality in relation to my financial affairs.
In brief. Court. Morrissey. Denis v RTÉ. Win. Delight. Denis v the People. Shut down Parliamentary reporting. Spineless media collapse. Lose (ring of steel) and experience abuse, venom and hatred. More Morrissey. National ignominy and revulsion.
Problem is it has been suggested that my banking affairs are of public interest. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I refute that. Where does public interest begin or end? I am a private citizen, and an old-fashioned one. Can I presume my medical records will be sought, twisted and turned for public consumption next, just as happened with my wife’s medical records at the Moriarty tribunal in 2002?
Deputy Catherine Murphy mysteriously obtained copies of files about my banking arrangements. Since then, she has repeatedly made erroneous and untruthful statements (Morrissey says don’t say lies, and he would know) about my banking relationship. Totally SIPTU.
Not for one minute did I ever allow external access to anyone to my private banking files. The only conclusion is that they were taken from Anglo Irish Bank/IBRC without the permission of the liquidator. In other words, they were stolen. Stolen in a different way from how journalists on INM which I nearly control obtain leaks, mind.
Miserable Michael McDowell always has something to say about me. But underlying everything you have to look at his agenda, which he always fails to declare. It’s almost like he’s holding something against me from the time of Professor Moriarty’s inquisition. In his Irish Times article he in fact fudged the parliamentary privilege issue, noting: “We are in dangerous territory where the alleged privacy rights of the powerful call into question … seem to cast doubt on the efficacy of Article 15.12 of our Constitution”. Morrissey laughed – it gave us a pass. Doubt on the efficacy of the Constitution? Brilliant.
RTÉ, the Irish Times and the Journal.ie removed the material from their websites or were not broadcasting it. It was like taking candy from kids. Nobody seemed to notice the Guardian and New York Times published it without taking breath. Philip Bouchier Hayes tweeted that the constitutional privilege was “qualified” for the media. Morrissey hooted with laughter. Before, that is, Micheal Martin destroyed him.
Amazed to see the profile of Morrissey in the Irish Times: ‘Denis O’Brien’s cornerman: He must have been a boxer in his former life’. How about a fucking moron in his former life? Micheal Martin rammed a pitchfork up his overpaid, loyal, thick arse. Now, perhaps the Fianna Fáil leader would like to lead the way elsewhere and encourage all Fianna Fáil TDs to make public their banking files since 1990 to RTÉ and then have them distorted?
Over time I do really hope that the anger and nastiness which fuels the current discord will abate and be replaced by a positive and constructive outlook for the country. I don’t mind its outlook on me, it’s the outlook for the country I’m about. Green jersey. Still.
Anyway the main thing is we’ll be back in court.
And I know you’re with me, Dermot. For years the media have largely spinelessly ignored your affairs – the Glackin report and all that stuff about funding of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey in the Moriarty Tribunal. You’re the gold standard in defamation successes over the years, with bars for Vincent Browne, Matt Cooper and the Sunday Times. That’s all I want. Privacy, confidentiality, fear and silence.
Back to the real world and Alex White playing a Rabbittesque blinder on media ownership. Not looking at the existing status quo – just the implications of future acquisitions. Ha. It’s not, he says, a question of being “averse” to questioning the current situation, but “rather that I believe it would be fraught with constitutional risk”. Alex noted that the retrospective nature of the nursing home charges led to the Supreme Court striking down an Act as repugnant to the Constitution. Sounds good to me.
According to top man, Nick Webb, in the Sindo, I’m changing the focus of Digicel as it prepares to float in New York in what could be the most valuable IPO of an Irish-linked company ever. Some industry estimates, Webb notes dutifully, have suggested that the company could have an enterprise value of around $13bn, including its $6.5bn in debt.
Tom Lyons and Ian Kehoe in the Business Post on the other hand talked of $10bn and only if it can move beyond mere mobile phone to become a rounded high-growth communications company. If I don’t own the Business Post, I should.
In the past three full financial years, Digicel has paid me $1.1bn in dividends. I receive a quarterly payment of $10 million each year. Pays Morrissey, legal fees and pints after the match for Macker, Biffer and the Bulldozer. In addition, I was paid special dividends of $650 million in February 2014 and $300 million in June 2012.
Digicel is “evaluating” an approach to buy its €90m mobile-phone mast business in Myanmar. We made an unsuccessful bid to land one of the two mobile-phone licences which were put up for auction by the Myanmar authorities in 2013. Groups involving Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo prevailed.
Meanwhile I see you’ve bought a few more diamonds, or is it diamond mines? No-one cares. Influence waning. At Banking Inquiry (sans Denis, note) Kevin Cardiff claims someone, referred to in his notes as “DD”, made an approach to John Hurley, Governor of the Central Bank, about the banking crisis in April 2008. He also told it that ‘leading Irish financier’ Dermot Desmond – that’s you – rang John Hurley, saying: “I’m in this market. I see things happening. I think you might need a guarantee”.
That’s influence, that’s respect. That’s the Green jersey. That’s what I want.