Former councillor Barry Nevin awarded €20,000 in the High Court
MEN AWARDED €20,000 EACH OVER DEFAMATORY PRESS RELEASE
A SITTING councillor said it was ‘a good day for local democracy’ as he and a former councillor were each awarded €20,000 in damages in a defamation case taken against Wicklow County Council and the former County Manager, Eddie Sheehy.
Cllr Tommy Cullen and former Councillor Barry Nevin had claimed an April 2013 press release by Mr Sheehy defamed them as it accused them of making unfounded, misconceived, inaccurate and serious allegations about the council’s purchase of a site at the Three Trouts in Greystones, which was bought by a Compulsory Purchase Order.
Mr Nevin, who lost his seat in 2014, and Cllr Cullen claimed that the press release portrayed them as unfit to be public repre- sentatives. They lost their case in Wicklow Circuit Court in 2013 but appealed the decision to the High Court where Ms Justice Marie Baker ruled in their favour last week.
‘We were fully vindicated and certainly it was a good day for local democracy and public representatives,’ said Cllr Cullen.
‘Myself and Barry put a lot of time, effort and our own personal money at our own cost into this case. There was nothing in it for us, everything we raised was in the public interest.’
Cllr Cullen added that the whole legal process had taken its toll on his and Mr Nevin’s families.
‘It was a big relief. This matter dates back all the way to 2011 and it was 20 gruelling days in the High Court, but we have been fully vindicated.
‘We were doing our jobs as public representatives and we were complimented in court for that.
‘It is a relief for both of our families, especially when it is such a comprehensive judgement. There can be no argument with the judgement but it was an exhausting trial. This was never about the money. As elected public representatives we were only doing our jobs,’ said Cllr Cullen.
‘We took a risk but it was in the public interest. We have now established our rights as public representatives to ask questions, get answers and defend the public interests.’
Mr Nevin also welcomed the High Court decision.
‘I am very thankful for the support of all my family and friends. Both Tommy and myself have been completely vindicated and I will let the High Court judgement speak for itself,’ he said.s
Ms Justice Baker feltf the press release hadh defamed both Cllr Cullen and Mr Nevin and portrayed them as ‘unworthy to public office.’o
Submissions on legal costs will take place in October.
“We have been fully vindicated...we were doing our jobs as public representatives”
Cllr Tommy Cullen.