herald

Friday 18 August 2017

Station's 'sorry' to TD Lynch over Donal Walsh allegation

Kathleen Lynch
Kathleen Lynch
Anti-suicide campaigner Donal Walsh has died after a long battle with cancer (Kerry's Eye Newspaper/PA)

A radio station has apologised and paid damages to Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch over untrue claims that she only commented on the death of Kerry teen Donal Walsh (16) to garner publicity for herself.

The defamation action was taken by the veteran Labour Party TD over an item broadcast by Cork's 96FM two years ago in which it had been suggested she publicly commented on the death of teen Donal Walsh to generate publicity.

The 16-year-old Kerry student died in May 2013 after a brave four-year battle with cancer.

Donal made headlines nationwide through his courage in facing his illness, and his heartfelt anti-suicide and self-harm plea to young people.

Ms Lynch launched High Court proceedings against 96FM following a broadcast of the Neil Prendeville Show on May 13, 2013.

It had been claimed during the broadcast that the Cork North Central TD had commented publicly on Donal Walsh's death for the purpose of generating publicity for herself.

PANews_N0065391368443551692A_I1.jpg
Anti-suicide campaigner Donal Walsh has died after a long battle with cancer (Kerry's Eye Newspaper/PA)

In settling the action, the station acknowledged that this statement was untrue.

It also accepted that the Labour politician had worked with the Kerry teenager and his family in her official capacity as Minister for Mental Health in order to help bring about suicide awareness and prevention.

Undisclosed damages are now being paid to Ms Lynch.

The station broadcast an apology in relation to the settlement of the action yesterday.

Mr Prendeville and his production team left 96FM for rival Cork station RedFM last year.

They were replaced by radio journalist PJ Coogan, Deirdre O'Shaughnessy and Brenda Dennehy.

The departure of Mr Prendeville sparked a ratings war between the two stations.

At the time of Donal's death, Ms Lynch paid a moving tribute to both him and his family.

She described Donal as "an extraordinary young man".

"For someone that young to be so articulate, to be so mature, and even when he was having huge difficulties, to reach out to others, I think that is what I found extraordinary about him," she said.

Ms Lynch also said she had previously contacted the Walsh family to ask if Donal would be willing to participate in an anti-suicide campaign given his high-profile.

"The other thing we were very conscious of was that this was going to be done after Donal was gone - that was very obvious and the family needed to be comfortable about it, very comfortable," she said.

awards

The Walsh family has, over the past two years, received multiple awards on behalf of their late son for his inspirational courage and the leadership he demonstrated in relation to the battle against suicide among teenagers.

A book written about Donal's life became a bestseller.

Donal came to public attention when he spoke about his brave cancer battle and his anti-suicide message for young people.

hnews@herald.ie

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