O'Brien's victory likely to result in a media cowering before the shadows

I’m truly astonished that a jury found an article in the Irish Daily Mail had defamed Denis O’Brien.

In what appears to be a contradictory decision the jury accepted that the article was based on the honest opinion of the writer but that it was not an opinion based on fact and was not in the public interest.

Not in the public interest – Feck.

O’Brien is a man who had very serious adverse findings made against him in the Moriarty Tribunal report, findings that could potentially cost Irish taxpayers several millions in compensation. It was in connection to this tribunal report that the article was written.

In response to the jury’s decision O’Brien said that while freedom of expression was part of our democracy everybody had a right to his or her good name.

So what are we to make of the comments by O’Brien after the Moriarty Tribunal report was published?

There’s a ring of steel around Moriarty because they knew, the judiciary knew, that he was never up to the job, he’s a Circuit Court judge.

You’ve got to separate the wider judiciary from Justice Moriarty. I believe I was stitched by Justice Moriarty but I’m not in any way critical of the wider judicial community.

Look, do you know a lot about the legal profession, the judiciary and the Law Society. There’s a code amongst them all that they don’t take each other on, they don’t criticise each other.

Are these comments based on fact?

Judge Moriarty was never up for the job? This is O’Brien’s opinion of which, I’m sure, Justice Moriarty would not agree.

I was stitched by Justice Moriarty. Is this fact or just O’Brien’s opinion? Would a jury conclude that it was just opinion or defamatory?

Here’s how legal expert Professor Gerry Whyte of Trinity Law School responded to O’Brien’s criticisms:

If criticism of the judiciary went so far as to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice then we’re talking about an offence called scandalising the court.

This case has potentially serious consequences for press freedom.

Every editor, every journalist will be looking over their shoulders to check for the shadows of very powerful individuals before they express an opinion.

It is very likely that many will decide to cower before the shadows.