Wednesday 21 March 2018

Sinn Fein political manager awarded €3.5k against RTE

RTE Radio One head Tom McGuire and presenter Claire Byrne speak to the media outside the Four Courts yesterday
RTE Radio One head Tom McGuire and presenter Claire Byrne speak to the media outside the Four Courts yesterday

A High Court jury has awarded Sinn Fein political manager Nicky Kehoe €3,500 against RTE for defamation.

It found the national broadcaster was 35pc liable for defaming Mr Kehoe, a former IRA member, in a live radio broadcast in October 2015.

It set total damages at €10,000 but found former Labour Party TD Joe Costello, who made the defamatory comment, was 65pc liable.

However, Mr Kehoe did not sue Mr Costello and there is no judgment against him.

Cian Ferriter, for RTE, said he would need to take instructions from his client in relation to an appeal on liability and that matter, along with costs, was put back to next week by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.


The case, which ran for eight days, was over a claim by Mr Costello, during a live Saturday With Claire Byrne programme, that a former IRA chief of staff was directing Sinn Fein members of Dublin City Council how to vote at monthly meetings.

RTE denied he was defamed and said it is not liable for the matters he complained of.

In reply to a number of questions put to the jury, it found the contents of the broadcast, taken as a whole, did not mean Mr Kehoe is a senior member of the army council of the IRA.

The jury found it did not mean that he was a member of a criminal organisation, or that he controls the way in which Sinn Fein councillors vote at Dublin City Council on behalf of the army council of the IRA.

However, it did find the broadcast meant he was not a fit person to be involved in the democratic process.

It found RTE was not entitled to the benefit of the defence of fair and reasonable publication.

It assessed total general damages at €10,000, with a zero sum in relation to aggravated damages. It apportioned fault between RTE and Mr Costello at 35pc and 65pc.

Afterwards, Mr Kehoe said the decision vindicated his good name. Asked about the level of damages, he said the case had nothing to do with money.

"It is my name. That is what I came here for," he said.

Tom McGuire, head of RTE Radio One, said he believed the outcome was "a very positive result". He believed it vindicated the decision of RTE to defend this case.

"It is really important that a public service broadcaster is able to host live vigorous political debate for the sake of our democracy," Mr McGuire said.

Claire Byrne said she was looking forward to getting back to doing her job.

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