A Cork developer has begun a defamation action against Minister of State Lucinda Creighton over comments made in Donegal two years ago.
Michael O’Flynn claims his reputation was tarnished in a speech entitled 'Standards in Public Life and Accountability' delivered by the minister at the MacGill Summer School in July 2010.
He also claims to have been defamed by her in subsequent interviews on RTÉ Radio and in the Irish Times.
Lucinda Creighton denies defaming Mr O’Flynn.
The founder of O'Flynn Construction said he was shocked to be described in the context of bringing low standards to politics by his attendance at a Fine Gael Golf Classic in the K Club in 2010.
Senior Counsel John Lucey told a jury at the High Court that Mr O’Flynn had taken part in a fundraising golf classic. He paid an entry fee of €1,500 but did not sponsor anything else.
Later at the MacGill Summer School on 20 July, Lucinda Creighton delivered a speech in which she criticised her party for raising funds from developers who were involved with NAMA.
She said there could be "no room in Fine Gael for cute hoor politics...which had defined and tainted public life like an incurable cancer. We cannot, on the one hand, condemn Fianna Fáil for entertaining developers in the Galway tent, while on the other hand extend the biscuit tin for contributions from high-profile developers who are beholden to NAMA".
In an interview on RTÉ Radio's News at One that day Ms Creighton was asked if she was referring to Michael O’Flynn's attendance at the golf classic and she replied "yes".
She added that the whole culture of property developers and political parties was damaging.
Mr O’Flynn also complains of comments reported in an Irish Times interview a number of days later.
His barrister said Ms Creighton's comments about him misunderstood the NAMA legislation and the way his company operates.
He said a company had no participation in NAMA's decision to take over loans.
While he was thick-skinned in business and property he could not deal with personal criticism which had affected him and his family.
He had come to court to have his reputation restored and to seek substantial damages.
In evidence Mr O’Flynn said he has supported all political parties except one. He had no big engagement in politics but supported democracy.
The court was told that Mr O’Flynn had never given support in return for anything and had never asked to donate but had simply responded to requests for donations.
He said he was approached to take part in the golf classic and he saw nothing wrong with it.
The court heard he was shocked at the coverage in newspapers about his attendance at the K Club and he felt he was being dragged into a political situation that had nothing to do with him.
Mr O'Flynn later got texts from friends and family to say he had to hear what was being said about him on the radio.
He said he was shocked to be associated with comments on low standards.
The court heard he was deeply offended and hurt and it affected his wife and family.
He said he was shocked at the time and was still shocked hearing the words repeated in court today.
"I was shocked that I was attacked in such a public way. I am not a public figure, I am a man going about my business and I do not need to be used as a pawn in a political issue. I treasure my reputation and I always have and you don't attack people in that way and try stand it up for your own gains."
Lucinda Creighton denies defaming Mr O'Flynn. The jury was told she denies the words used were defamatory and will also be relying on the defence of honest opinion, and fair and reasonable publication in a matter of public interest.
The trial continues tomorrow.