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.
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.”
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