Jury­sent home in defama­tion ac­tion by ex-minister

Irish Independent - - News - Tim Healy

THE jury in the defama­tion ac­tion by for­mer junior minister Paudie Cof­fey against a news­pa­per has been sent home un­til Tues­day.

It fol­lowed five hours of de­lib­er­a­tion and Mr Jus­tice Bernard Bar­ton’s di­rec­tion that the jury could reach a ma­jor­ity ver­dict of not less than 9-3.

The case, which has taken place over 12 days, cen­tres on the ‘Kilkenny Peo­ple’s use of a press re­lease from Mr Cof­fey’s Fine Gael Car­low-Kilkenny col­league John Paul Phe­lan TD in Jan­uary 2016.

Mr Cof­fey was a Water­ford TD and junior en­vi­ron­ment minister at the time and he claims the ar­ti­cle was a ma­jor fac­tor in him los­ing his Dáil seat over a month later.

The press re­lease was is­sued in an on­go­ing dis­pute about a com­mis­sion which was look­ing at mov­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tive bound­ary of Water­ford into Kilkenny, a highly con­tentious is­sue among south Kilkenny peo­ple, the court heard.

The re­lease said Mr Cof­fey had been “band­ing to­gether” with then en­vi­ron­ment minister Alan Kelly to com­mit “day­light rob­bery”.

It then stated there was an 18th-cen­tury high­way­man in Water­ford called “Crotty the Rob­ber” and now “Cof­fey the Rob­ber was try­ing to do the very same”.

The news­pa­per based an ar­ti­cle al­most 90pc on the press re­lease and head­lined it “Cof­fey the Rob­ber”.

Mr Cof­fey claims this was defam­a­tory.

Iconic News­pa­pers, pub­lish­ers of the ‘Kilkenny Peo­ple’, and the jour­nal­ist who wrote the story, Sam Matthews, deny the claims.

Mr Matthews told the High Court this week that the ref­er­ence to the 18th-cen­tury high­way­man was a “colour­ful al­lu­sion” in the con­text of an on­go­ing de­bate about a con­tentious is­sue.

Send­ing the jury home, Mr Jus­tice Bar­ton said they could go straight back into de­lib­er­a­tions when they re­turn and hope­fully reach a con­clu­sion on Tues­day.

Lost his seat: Paudie Cof­fey

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