You can tell Michael O’Flynn is a different class of developer: for a start, he’s announced today he’s donating part of the “substantial contribution” to his legal costs from junior minister Lucinda Creighton, to the Crumlin Hospital Foundation. He was speaking at the conclusion of a court hearing where he claimed the Minister for European Affairs had defamed him, and in court, a statement was read out today which,in part, said “it is appropriate that she has agreed to make a substantial contribution to my legal costs part of which I will donate to Crumlin Hospital Foundation”
You see NAMA won’t normally allow its borrowers to sponsor events or sporting teams or make charitable donations. And given this “substantial contribution” from Minister Creighton would be regarded as unencumbered income, it must mean that Michael is up-to-date on his very significant borrowings – said during the course of the hearing to be north of €1bn – or that the borrowings don’t have recourse to his own personal income or wealth as it is rumoured that he is one developer who didn’t give personal guarantees.
So today in Dublin’s High Court, the case taken by Tiger Developments and O’Flynn Construction chief, Michael O’Flynn against Minister Creighton concluded with a settlement between the two. Michael had claimed that Lucinda had defamed him during a speech at the MacGill Summer School in 2010 followed by a newspaper article and radio broadcast. Following a Fine Gael fund-raising golf tournament in 2010 at the K Club in Kildare, Minister Creighton had criticized the “cancer of cute hoor politics” and said that “Fine Gael cannot condemn Fianna Fáil for entertaing developers in the Galway tent while holding the biscuit tin to high-profile developers beholden to NAMA” and later said she was referring to Michael O’Flynn. Michael said this all amounted to defamation.
On Tuesday this week, it was reported in the Independent “He [Michael O’Flynn] told his counsel, Declan Doyle, that her solicitors put forward proposals that she would issue a press release which she would carry on her website and also issue to the ‘Irish Times’, along with a contribution to Crumlin Children’s Hospital. Mr O’Flynn said he refused to accept these proposals and wanted an apology which would receive the same publicity across the media that the “attack” Ms Creighton had made on him had received.”
Today, the settlement seemingly involved two statements being read to the Court – firstly on behalf of Minister Creighton “I made comments about Michael O’Flynn and his attendance at a fundraising Golf classic for Fine Gael in particular concerning low standards and wrong doing. I am happy to confirm that Michael O’Flynn is an upstanding developer and person who operates his business to the highest standards. He has not done any wrong and any suggestion to the contrary was not intended by me. I apologise to Mr O Flynn and his family for any hurt and distress caused by my comments. I have agreed to pay a contribution towards his legal costs.”
The statement on behalf of Michael O’Flynn was “I am very happy that the damage to my reputation caused by Ms Creighton’s very public comments in her speech at Glenties and her subsequent interviews with RTÉ and the Irish Times has been recognised in these court proceedings. It is regrettable that I was compelled to bring these proceedings and I am delighted to have received an apology in open court from Ms Creighton. From day one, all I was seeking was an appropriate apology from Ms Creighton and a donation to Crumlin in recognition of her inappropriate comments about me, and it is appropriate that she has agreed to make a substantial contribution to my legal costs part of which I will donate to Crumlin Hospital Foundation. I have been in operating in business in Ireland and abroad since the 1970s, and I treasure my good name both in my professional and my private life.”
The hearing took the best part of three days this week, and won’t have been cheap, but we don’t precisely know what costs were incurred by Michael O’Flynn or Lucinda Creighton or what a “contribution” or “substantial contribution” means. But neither “contribution” nor “substantial contribution” means “100% reimbursement” so this has cost Michael money. And again, we can see how he is different to other NAMA developers who would be constrained in their freedom to sue people because NAMA generally wants to snaffle their unencumbered income and wealth.
During the hearing some mud was thrown with the claim by Michael that he had contributed to the election campaign of Lucinda’s husband, the current Senator Paul Bradford.
As regards the settlement statement, it more a clarification than an apology. The Minister doesn’t confess to saying or writing anything which was incorrect. She does clarify that in the case of Michael O’Flynn that he is “an upstanding developer and person who operates his business to the highest standards” The apology is for “any hurt and distress” caused by her comments, there is no admission that what was stated was incorrect. Minister Creighton refers to a simple “contribution” to Michael’s legal costs, whilst Michael refers to a “substantial contribution” but whatever it is, Michael is going to be out of pocket. But that seemingly isn’t NAMA’s concern.
UPDATE: 19th November 2012. The Irish edition of the Sunday Times – not available online without subscription – yesterday refuted a claim made on the Newstalk radio station on Friday last that Lucinda was paying €100,000 towards Michael’s legal costs and a further €50,000 as a donation to the Crumlin Hospital. The Sunday Times journalist Mark Tighe reported that Lucinda paid “at least €50,000 to settle the defamation action” and that this figure was confirmed by “sources from both sides of the dispute”. Furthermore Lucinda is reported to have been annoyed by the report on Newstalk.