The Journalist Who Came In From The Cold



From top: Mark Hollingsworth; Denis O’Brien.

You may have read reports this morning about a journalist called Mark Hollingsworth and his efforts last year to interview a number of politicians, political advisers and journalists in Dublin.

It’s been reported that Mr Hollingsworth claimed he was writing an article about Denis O’Brien for The Sunday Times.

Readers may recall how Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy mentioned Mr Hollingsworth in a Dáil speech earlier this week, during a debate about the Cregan investigation into certain transactions involving IBRC – including the sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien.

Ms Murphy said:

I have since discovered a whole other world that I did not know existed. A journalist contacted me [in September 2015] on the false premise that he was writing an article and I took him at face value. He made an appointment to come to the Oireachtas for a meeting, but the sole purpose of it was to try to find out the sources of my information.

He is Mr Mark Hollingsworth.

He did not get the sources but it appeared to be more of an inquisition than an interview. That kind of world, which I did not know existed, is there bubbling under the surface. We must be conscious of that.

This morning, Mark Tighe, in The Times Ireland edition, reported:

[Mr Hollingsworth] told interviewees that he was planning to have his article published in The Sunday Times magazine. The newspaper has said that it did not commission him to research or write any such article.

In September last year, after making contact with Karl Brophy, the chief executive of Red Flag, Mr Hollingsworth was provided with access to a file in Red Flag’s online Dropbox account containing dozens of published stories about Mr O’Brien and privately authored documents concerning the billionaire.

The Times has learnt that after obtaining the Red Flag dossier, Mr Hollingsworth gave a copy to a private investigator working for Alaco… There is no suggestion that Alaco was involved in any wrongdoing. Alaco was formed in 2002 and is one of London’s most high-profile corporate investigation companies.

Mr Hollingsworth, who has written several books, is among a number of British journalists who sometimes collaborate with private investigators on stories.

He is understood to maintain that he was not working for Alaco last September but was willing to share his research with the company.

Further to this.

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Letters from British intelligence companies, Alaco, Diligence International and K2 Limited to Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy (above left) and Social Democrats Political Director Anne-Marie McNally (above right)

The Social Democrats have released three letters (above) which Catherine Murphy and Anne Marie McNally were sent by three different British intelligence agencies – on foot of queries from the two women – in November and December 2015.

The party has also released the following statement:

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has said she and her adviser Anne-Marie McNally both submitted Data Protection requests to a number of British Intelligence Agencies following interactions they had with Mark Hollingsworth in September of last year.

News articles today have identified Mr Hollingsworth as having passed files relating to Denis O’Brien to Alaco Limited, a British Intelligence firm.

Alaco was one of the firms contacted by Catherine Murphy and Anne-Marie Marie McNally but both received letters to say no details were held on file.

One of the agencies contacted, K2 Limited, advised Murphy and McNally that they would pass the enquiry onto the GCHQ and the NSA ‘so they can monitor your electronic and other communication’.

Mr Hollingsworth had presented himself as a journalist writing a feature on Denis O’Brien and Siteserv and had made numerous contacts with Ms McNally throughout August culminating in a meeting with Deputy Murphy and Ms McNally in Leinster House in September.

Both women felt his line of questioning was spurious and ended the interview promptly.


Speaking following today’s news reports Catherine Murphy said:

“Upon realising that Mr Hollingsworth’s intentions seemed different to his stated intentions we began to wonder what kind of information he, and whoever had employed him, were keeping on us.

We issued the data protection requests to a small few agencies in London that we had reason to believe might have an interest in details pertaining to Mr O’Brien – Alaco was one.

We had reason to be concerned that information was being compiled on us following the Hollingsworth incident and an unusual encounter Anne-Marie had with a taxi driver in the city during the Siteserv saga.

“I am concerned at today’s reports that Mr Hollingsworth passed a file to Alaco given that they have responded to both myself and Anne-Marie to say they hold nothing on file for either of us. I would like to think that Data Protection Acts give us a level of comfort but if there are loopholes being used I believe that merits attention.”

Journalist passed O’Brien file to London firm (Mark Tighe, The Times Ireland edition)

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22 thoughts on “The Journalist Who Came In From The Cold

  1. Clampers Outside!

    It would have to be one hell of a piece if he was writing for The Sunday Times ‘magazine’, as that magazine is printed on glossy paper (ie expensive) and as a standard only carries copy originating in the UK.
    The norm is that only the cover and inside cover pages are different from the UK edition.
    There are exceptions, like when the magazine does (used to do) a quarterly on Irish fashion. Having worked there in the past I do know it costs an awful lot of money, and headaches, to change the standard cover pages, and even more to change the inside copy pages for an Irish edition.

    In my own humble opinion, Hollingsworth is telling mega porkies!

    1. Ms Piggy

      Was also wondering that – my first and purely speculative guess is that she had reason to believe she was being followed. But who knows?!

    2. Anne

      He probably mansplained a few things to her.. lol
      Just messin’.

      What a tangled web we weave, Denny..

  2. Robert Flanagan

    WTF was that ‘we’ve passed your details on ot GCHQ and NSA’ so that they can “so they can monitor your electronic and other communication”? Was this “back off sister” intimidation?

    1. Anne

      I found the matching up of their letters a bit snide too.. like we’re onto ye, sorta thing. They’re not a married couple. Are you supposed to send in your queries together if the cheque and bank details are the same?

      We can’t be arsed to send ye two separate letters…trying to save on stamps is it?.

      It can’t be to save the effort of writing anyway, as they went to the effort of writing a useless big paragraph, letting them know they matched up their bank accounts and cheque numbers.

      Bit weird. They each deserve their own response to their query.

      1. Anne

        If the cheque is from the same cheque book I should say… they sent in separate cheques it seems.

        Inspector Clouseau figured out they were sequential and told them what they already know.
        Double 0 7 wouldn’t get a look in.

  3. Anne

    The Times has learnt that after obtaining the Red Flag dossier, Mr Hollingsworth gave a copy to a private investigator working for Alaco

    Let’s see now.. O’Brien said he received the USB stick with the dossier stored by Red Flag of articles already published about him, from an anonymous source..

    Hollingsworth was given access to a Red Flag dropbox… Hollingsworth was asking very confidential information of Catherine Murphy and Anne-Marie McNally about their sources.
    RTÉ News business editor, David Murphy also has said Hollingsworth was asking about his sources on O’Brien.

    Hollingsworth said he was writing an article for the Sunday Times. The paper has said he wasn’t commissioned to write any such story.

    O’Brien wants us to believe, as he swore in an affidavit that the USB stick just arrived on his desk out of the blue, anonymously…. and coincidentally he happened to employ the services of a private investigator working out of Kiev – John Whelehan..

    I mean, seriously… how can you sue a company, based on information that you do not have permission to have and that your story on how you received that information is not very credible.

  4. Tish Mahorey

    Passing on details to Britain’s GCHQ and NSA is a threatening and aggressive act. Not to mention, very likely illegal.

    I’ll bet Fine Gael are loving this. Anything to undermine Murphy’s investigations of Denis O’Brien.

    1. Owen C

      Do we know what the actual original enquiry was? did it allege some sort of illegal act, hence explaining why GCHQ and NSA were referenced?

  5. Gary

    The truth is already out there.A businessman has the Irish political and media system under the sole of his foot but lets not dwell on this subversion.of our democracy… ‘s Bertie Aherns law with todays showbiz news.

  6. perricrisptayto

    ” The truth is already out there.A businessman has the Irish political and media system under the sole of his foot but lets not dwell on this subversion.of our democracy… ‘s Bertie Aherns law with todays showbiz news.” GARY.
    Comment of the week.

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