Wednesday 21 March 2018

'RTE took away my reputation in one swipe', claims SF Kehoe

RTE’s Claire Byrne
RTE’s Claire Byrne

Nicky Kehoe has told the High Court that his arrest during a shootout with gardai had to be seen "in the historical context" of the IRA hunger strikes.

The Sinn Fein politician was arrested during the attempted kidnap of multi-millionaire Galen Weston in 1983.

Mr Kehoe (62) said he had spent 26 years rebuilding his reputation after serving 12 years in jail for his part in the kidnap attempt.

However, that was taken from him in "one swipe" by an RTE radio programme on October 24, 2015, he told the High Court.

Mr Kehoe claimed he was defamed when former TD Joe Costello, speaking on the Saturday With Claire Byrne show, falsely described him as a former chief of staff of the IRA who controlled the way SF councillors voted on Dublin City Council.

The state broadcaster denies Mr Kehoe's claims.

Cian Ferriter, for RTE, put it to Mr Kehoe that he could not pick and choose which parts of the IRA campaign of violence he supported and those he did not.

Mr Kehoe replied: "I would say most or all, the campaign was wrong for violence. It was wrong that people were killed."

He agreed that while he saw his activities in the historical context, most people would see them as criminal.

Counsel said most people would not believe he had a reputation when it came to the IRA.

"I served my time and I came out changed," he said. "The reputation I have now is different from what I had, but I had to work hard to get it."

Mr Ferriter asked whether he was proud of his IRA activities.

"No, I would not be proud," he said.

"Are you ashamed," counsel asked.

"I would be, in a context," said Mr Kehoe, who was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in 1974 for possession of explosives.

He said he took part in a 35-day hunger strike in Portlaoise, but denied he was a commander of one of the prison wings.


He also said he was not in Portlaoise at the time when chief prison officer Brian Stack was murdered, and he did not support that murder

Asked if he was regularly referred to as an IRA gunman, he said: "In the media."

Earlier, Mr Ferriter put it to him that despite the fact it was Mr Costello who made the comments on the radio show, he had not taken a case against him.

Mr Kehoe said he had acted on the advice of lawyers. He also said it was not Mr Costello who broadcast the matter, but RTE.

He agreed that while Ms Byrne did do her job as presenter on the day in a fair and balanced way, this was not so when it came to him.

He said that when she asked Mr Costello if he was saying Mr Kehoe "is" a member of the army council, she was "confirming what Mr Costello was saying".

Was he saying Ms Byrne was in favour of Mr Costello, counsel asked.

"She is confirming I am a member of the army council, she says 'is', that is not a question," he replied.

Mr Kehoe had earlier told his own counsel he was shocked when he was told by people who had heard the programme what had been said.

"I couldn't believe it," he said.

The trial continues.

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