Defamation

O´Brien awarded €150,000 Compensation for Defamation by the Irish Daily Mail


 

Digicel chairman Dennis O´Brien has been awarded €150,000 compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail following a seven-day hearing at the High Court.

On 22nd January 2010, the Irish Daily Mail published an article entitled “Moriarty is about to Report, No Wonder Denis O´Brien is Acting the Saint in Stricken Haiti”. The article commented on O´Brien´s presence in earthquake-struck Haiti shortly before the release of Mr Justice Moriarty´s report into the issuing of the second mobile phone license to O´Brien´s Esat Digifone company.

O´Brien claimed that the article implied his involvement in the Haiti Relief Effort was hypocritical, and intended to deflect attention away from adverse findings in the Moriarty Report. He claimed compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail on the grounds that the article gave the impression that his presence in Haiti was motivated by self-interest and was an “ingenious feint”.

The claim for compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail was contested by the publication´s Editor-in-Chief – Paul Field – and the reporter who had written the article – Paul Drury – who said it was a piece of opinion honestly held on a matter of public interest and, while it might be cynical, there was no agenda against Denis O´Brien.

The claim for compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail went to the High Court in Dublin, where it was heard by a jury before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne. During the seven-day hearing O’Brien claimed that the article was “nasty, spiteful and grubby” and caused damage to his good name and reputation; while the defendants claimed that there was no evidence to support the argument that the newspaper article was malicious.

In his closing statement, O´Brien´s barrister asked the jury to find in his client´s favour, and not only to award him compensation for defamation by the Irish Daily Mail, but also aggravated damages for maliciousness. However, after three hours of deliberation, the jury decided that the article – although not in the public interest – was not malicious, and awarded O´Brien €150,000 compensation for defamation against the Irish Daily Mail.