Picture it: A man in his 80s - I will refer to him for a bit hereinafter as "CC" - is in the witness box at an inquiry. His conduct is an issue. He is asked a question and from the content of the question, he correctly deduces that information which he had thought was confidential has been shared, or is about to be, with those hostile to him without his prior consent. The material disclosed, he says, includes personally sensitive information imparted to him, and recorded by him, on the basis that it was to be strictly "between them only", as well as legal advice on his own position.
He consults his lawyers who tell him that what has been done is legally suspect at least, and they are possibly more emphatic than that. On their advice, he institutes proceedings in the High Court to vindicate his own rights and, he says, those of people who confided in him.
A deluge of public criticism and abuse then descends on him:
"Mr O'Gorman said CC should waive his legal privilege in relation to the documents and put the rights of victims above his own"(RTE 01.02.08)
"... [major public figure says he] is concerned that the hard work put in by many people, in the interest of the truth about the abuse ... could be overshadowed by [CC's] action." (Irish Independent 5.02.08)
"Whatever the eventual outcome, [CC] has thrown a spanner into ... policy towards child abuse. The public is wondering what [CC] has to cover-up. He has further damaged his own reputation. He has done a disservice to church and nation". (The Western People 6.02.08)
Television producer and columnist Mary Raftery said ... that "justice transcends loyalty to any institution" and that what [CC] was attempting was "an outrageous thing to have done".
In CC's case, the pressure seems to have worked. In physical pain, following an injury, he withdraws his action.
Now read this (from Halsbury's Laws of England - in this instance, no different from Ireland's - very slightly paraphrased):
"Criminal contempt of court includes conduct calculated to inhibit citizens from availing of their right to have legal rights determined by courts e.g. by holding them up to public obloquy or by exposing them to prejudicial discussion in public of the merits of their action".
It seems to me almost beyond argument that Cardinal Connell - for it was he - was intimidated into abandoning his legal action by behaviour amounting to criminal contempt of court.
And a similar process is taking place in relation to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's separate proceedings in regard to the alleged infringement of his entitlements by another inquiry.
I happen to think that both Ahern and Connell - neither of whom can count me among their admirers - do have something to hide and are open to legitimate criticism about the behaviour of theirs under scrutiny by the respective inquiries. But that does not disentitle them to appropriate privacy or to fair play.
I forgot that my title for this piece was to be "Are you Paying Attention, Sepp Blatter ?"and that I was going to include a reference to FIFA's intimidation of Middlesborough F.C. a few years back into abandoning a legal challenge to a draconian sanction visited upon the club. I have been waiting for years for an opportunity to make the point that Herr Blatter was a contemnor.