SF of­fi­cial takes RTÉ to court over ‘pup­pet master’ jibe

Claims he was de­famed

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Paul Caf­frey paul.caf­frey@dai­ly­mail.ie

A SINN Féin of­fi­cial has launched a li­bel case against RTÉ after claim­ing he was de­scribed as an IRA ‘pup­pet master’ who directed the party’s coun­cil­lors on how to vote in Dublin City Coun­cil.

The sta­tion is fight­ing claims by Nicky Ke­hoe, Sinn Féin’s ‘po­lit­i­cal man­ager’, that re­marks made by for­mer Labour TD Joe Costello on Claire Byrne’s Satur­day lunchtime ra­dio show in 2015, were ‘hugely defam­a­tory’ of him.

Mr Ke­hoe com­plains that Mr Costello told lis­ten­ers to Satur­day With Claire Byrne on Oc­to­ber 24, 2015 ‘that Mr Ke­hoe was a mem­ber of the Pro­vi­sional IRA Army Coun­cil… that he was mem­ber of a crim­i­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion and that, like a pup­pet master, he con­trolled how the Sinn Féin coun­cil­lors [on Dublin City Coun­cil] voted on im­por­tant de­ci­sions.’ The case, be­fore the High Court, will get fully un­der way this morn­ing and is ex­pected to run for at least six days.

The jury of six women and six men heard that they have a very im­por­tant case to de­cide. Mr Jus­tice Bernard Bar­ton, who will pre­side over the trial, told them: ‘Our law, while guar­an­tee­ing the good name of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual, also has to bal­ance other rights like the right to free speech… This is a very sig­nif­i­cant case. A very im­por­tant case. Mr Ke­hoe is look­ing for sig­nif­i­cant com­pen­sa­tion.’

Ms Byrne, 42, at­tended the Four Com­plaint: Nicky Ke­hoe Courts and sat at the back of the court along­side RTÉ col­leagues.

RTÉ will say that as a broad­caster, it is ‘not li­able for the mat­ters about which Mr Ke­hoe com­plains’, be­cause while Mr Ke­hoe did not par­tic­i­pate in the pro­gramme, his Sinn Féin col­league Eoin Ó Broin ‘was able to give as good as he got and de­fended Mr Ke­hoe’, the court heard.

Judge Bar­ton told the ju­rors: ‘RTÉ have not put their hands up by any man­ner or means… They say, “We are the na­tional broad­caster, so this all went out in­no­cently, there was noth­ing in­ten­tional about any of this, it was part of a live broad­cast.” ’

He urged po­ten­tial jury mem­bers to con­sider not par­tic­i­pat­ing if they hap­pened to be ‘a com­mit­ted life­long mem­ber of the Labour Party,’ but the judge added: ‘It’s a mat­ter for each per­son to con­sider.’

Judge Bar­ton said that all mem­bers of the pub­lic would ‘to a greater or lesser ex­tent’ have a view about po­lit­i­cal par­ties, and hav­ing ‘po­lit­i­cal views like every­one else’ does not dis­qual­ify any

‘This is a very im­por­tant case’

po­ten­tial ju­ror from par­tic­i­pat­ing. The judge added: ‘Mr Ke­hoe is en­ti­tled to a fair trial and so is RTÉ.’ He also warned them not to ‘rush to a con­clu­sion or judg­ment on the ev­i­dence’ un­til they had heard all of the ev­i­dence from both sides.

He stressed ‘the im­por­tance of wait­ing to the end of the case be­fore you make a de­ci­sion’.

The judge pointed out that the me­dia, in­clud­ing RTÉ, has a right to ‘sit there [in court] and re­port ev­ery­thing in this case,’ be­cause ‘we have a right to free speech in this coun­try.’

But he warned them to avoid the ‘temp­ta­tion’ to look up any­thing on­line re­lat­ing to the case, such as ‘googling’ any of the wit­nesses, for ex­am­ple.

The judge warned ju­rors not to dis­cuss the case with any­one out­side their num­ber.

The judge added: ‘Talk about it as much as you like when the case is over.’

The case opens in full to­day,

RTÉ’s Claire Byrne: Hosted dis­cus­sion with Joe Costello

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.