Defamation

Defamation Cases in Ireland


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It is mainly the very public defamation cases in Ireland that we hear so much about, however a great many cases are solved quietly out of court and the public eye.

Defamation cases in Ireland were considered a notorious area of law for a long time. The Defamation Act 2009 thankfully modernised and regularised the whole area, and while there is still more law reform to be done, taking or defending a case for Defamation in Ireland is now far more straightforward.

Defamation Cases taken in Ireland

A defamation case can be taken where a false statement is published about a person which tends to lower the standing of the person in the eyes of right-thinking members of society. Defamatory statements can include accusations of unethical, illegal or immoral behaviour.

Here are just a few examples of the type of defamation cases taken in Ireland in recent years:

Sexual Defamation Case: Imputations of sexual impropriety – Sinclair versus Gogarty
Sympathy for Terrorism Case: Improper accusation of a person being a sympathiser with terrorism – McDonagh versus Newsgroup
Cheating Case: Wrongly accused of cheating in a horse race – Green versus Blake
Toleration of Crime Case:
Suggesting wrongly that a person tolerated serious crime – DeRossa versus Independent Newspapers
Sale of Drugs Case: Suggestion that a nightclub owner tolerated the sale of drugs on his premises and was a gay – Reynolds versus Malocco

Internet Defamation Cases in Ireland

The Defamation Act 2009 mainly focused on traditional media and largely ignored the online world. This means that for example, Internet providers can still be held liable for content they did not produce. This high risk of liability, means that website owners often take down content or quickly close off discussions because they fear being held responsible for the comments of their users. Two such example defamation cases in Ireland are:

1) Boards.ie felt compelled to ban all discussion of MCD concerts because MCD took a liable action against them after negative comments about their Oxygen festival were posted on the Boards.ie website.

2) Andy Lewis blogged on his Quackometer website and the Society of Homeopaths took offence. Despite the fact that Lewis himself stood over his comments, the society threatened to sue the hosting company, and they took down Lewis’s blog.

In the USA defamation law gives Internet providers a defence in respect of material written by their users, as in many EU countries where this is also the case. An Internet provider is still obligated to is remove content from a site if there is a complaint but they then must contact the producer of the content about the matter. If the content producer is willing to stand by their comment, then it can be put back on the website again and the website owner is in the clear as far as any defamation case is concerned.

We would hope that Ireland eventually catches up and introduces this more balanced approach, however as it stands you can take a case for defamation against the owner of a website, even it they are not the author of the offensive comments.

For free and impartial advice about your defamation case call us now on our freephone number

Recent High Profile Defamation Cases in Ireland

May 2010: Captain Evan Cullen versus Michael O’Leary

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary apologised for wrongly describing a trade union official as a “failed Aer Lingus pilot” during RTE’s Prime Time in September 2006.
The apology formed part of a settlement of a High Court action against him by Irish Air Line Pilots Association (IALPA) president, Captain Evan Cullen.
Mr O’Leary also agreed to make a contribution to two charities by Mr Cullen as part of the settlement.

In taking his defamation case Mr Cullen claimed the “failed pilot” had caused damage to his reputation both in his community and among his work colleagues. Mr Cullen said the remarks had caused “considerable upset to both himself and his family”, but that he was pleased his “good name and reputation as a pilot” has been fully vindicated.

May 2010: Andrea Roche versus The Sunday World

Ms Roche is suing the Sunday World for libel over an article published on December 9th 2007. She alleges she was defamed when the paper wrongly claimed she was to be interviewed by gardai over Katy French’s death, which had occurred days earlier. Recently, as part of the ongoing case, a discovery application by the Sunday World was turned down when Mr Justice Kearns said the paper had met the threshold for discovery in relation to its claim that the article was in the public interest, but that it had not met the threshold in relation to its second claim it had acted responsibly and published the article within the requirements of good journalistic practice.

April 2010: Michael Meegan versus The Irish Mail on Sunday

Michael Meegan, a founder of the International Community for Relief of Starvation and Suffering (Icross), lost a High Court case to stop the Irish Mail on Sunday publishing an article alleging that Mr Meegan had made inappropriate sexual advances to males in Kenya. Meegan strongly denied the Irish Mail on Sunday claims, and wanted an injunction stopping the Irish Mail on Sunday publishing any material alleging he sexually assaulted or abused anybody or engaged in sexual conduct or any other form of inappropriate behaviour with anyone under the age of 18.
He also claimed the paper was breaching his right to privacy over his sexuality. Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns refused the injunction after finding the newspaper had shown a reasonable basis for its claim it may succeed at the trial of any libel action. The judge said there was no suggestion the Irish Mail on Sunday was not a “mark” for damages should any libel action against them succeed.