Lawyers for Denis O'Brien have told the High Court it was not true that he was "coming the heavy" with the Sunday Business Post in an attempt to destroy or frighten people.

Senior Counsel Paul O'Higgins was giving his closing speech in Mr O'Brien's defamation action against the newspaper. 

Mr O'Brien claims articles published in March 2015, giving details of a government report into Ireland's banks, portrayed him as one of a gang of 22 "developer kings" who destroyed the country and bankrupted its banks. 

The newspaper says the articles do not mean what Mr O'Brien claims. And it says the articles were published in good faith on a subject of public interest.


This morning the jury heard from Senior Counsel Michael McDowell for the Sunday Business Post. This afternoon, it was the turn of Mr O'Higgins for Mr O'Brien.

Mr O'Higgins said that Mr O'Brien was clearly a wealthy man, written about in newspapers and involved in a certain amount of litigation but he told the jurors they could not make a judgment based on any such factor.

He said Mr O'Brien was not "coming the heavy" to destroy people. He said Mr O'Brien could have sued the former editor Ian Kehoe and former business editor Tom Lyons personally, but he did not do that.

He claimed Mr McDowell's speech was not short of words but that very few of them dealt with what the case was about and said it was not about most of the things the defence claimed it was about, but was much more complex.

Mr O'Higgins accused the newspaper of presenting the articles in a sensationalistic, heavily coloured "get up" designed to wow the reader from the front page.

He said Mr O'Brien claims the message coming from the articles was that the businessman was one of the borrowers most to blame for the destruction of the Irish banking system and the subsequent bail out. 

It was irrelevant if the newspaper did not intend to convey that meaning.

He said the issue was not whether or not Mr O'Brien developed properties but whether he was a "developer king"- described by the newspaper as massively overstretched and failing in many cases to pay their interest bills. 

Mr O'Brien he said was put, willy nilly, into that category. He said Mr O'Brien was singled out on the front page for special treatment.

But there was no reason to believe Mr O'Brien was under pressure of any kind.  He was the odd man out - a fish out of water - and it was exceptionally unfair to name him on the front page with seven other people who had huge problems.

He said it was not in good faith to "titillate" the public by teasing names on the front page, leading people through to the tiny miniscule point where the newspaper said that Mr O'Brien had paid off all his loans.

Mr O'Higgins also suggested to the jury it beggared belief that the journalists had not kept a copy of the report. 

he court has been told Mr Lyons destroyed his copy to protect his source. But Mr O'Higgins said, if it was the  scoop of the century, it was very strange that it was let go back to oblivion. 

He said surely it was something no careful journalist could allow to just disappear again either on behalf of the people of Ireland or to be able to show what was actually said. 

He claimed there were very few sentences from the report in the articles.

Mr O'Higgins referred to an interview Mr Lyons had done with the RTÉ radio programme This Week and suggested this showed Mr Lyons' real attitude was unambiguously critical of the developers and that the articles unambiguously meant that a very small group of people had brought the country to the brink.

He said Mr Kehoe and Mr Lyons knew from the report that Mr O'Brien had no land and development loans and was not in any relevant sense a developer or developer king.

He told the jurors it was not easy to decide cases in the public glare but he told the three women and eight men that they had been listening to the case for three weeks and other people did not know about it in the same way.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton will give directions to the jurors tomorrow morning, after which they will begin their deliberations.