Court ruling today on 'Mail on Sunday' move to halt Finucane family libel case
THE publishers of 'The Mail on Sunday' have brought legal proceedings to stop the widow and son of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane from suing the newspaper for libel in the Dublin High Court.
Mrs Geraldine Finucane and her children, Michael, John and Catherine, are suing the newspaper over an article published on July 30, 2000 and entitled "Fury at BBC film showing the IRA as heroes".
A document put before the court said the article related to a then forthcoming BBC programme about Dermot and Seamus Finucane, two of the murdered solicitor's brothers.
Among other material, it stated the BBC had "caused a political uproar" over the planned programme and that: "It [the BBC programme] will cover the Finucanes' involvement in the troubles from 1969, the death of their older brother Patrick, killed by loyalist gunmen, and the family's support for the deaths of British soldiers."
Yesterday, Mr Justice John Quirke heard 'The Mail on Sunday' had apologised, in other proceedings, to the wife and daughter of Dermot Finucane in relation to the article.
Mr John McMenamin SC said Mrs Grainne Finucane and her daughter Ailish had received "more" than an apology at which point Mr Eoin McCullough SC objected, stating that Mr McMenamin could not give evidence.
Mr McCullough, for Associated Newspapers plc, publishers of 'The Mail on Sunday', said he understood the libel claim by the late Pat Finucane's family would particularly relate to that part of the sentence ' . . . and the family's support for the deaths of British soldiers'.
His client had brought a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the proceedings brought on behalf of Mrs Finucane and her son John, both of whom were resident in Northern Ireland.
No such motion was brought regarding the claim by Michael and Catherine Finucane, who were resident in the Republic.
Mr McCullough argued that as Mrs Finucane and John Finucane resided in Northern Ireland, there was no jurisdiction to hear their claim here.
He said his client disputed their claim that their reputation here had been damaged and contended they had no reputation here sufficient to ground their claim.
'The Mail on Sunday', in July 2000, had a circulation of some 12,654 in the Republic, about a half per cent of its total circulation, he added.
Mr McCullough said Mrs Finucane had first complained about the article in a letter from her solicitors in Northern Ireland in August, 2002, but no further action was taken there and her claim there was now statute-barred.
In November 2002, his client received for the first time an intimation that a claim might be made by Mrs Finucane here.
Neither Mrs Finucane nor John Finucane were identified by name in the article and his client did not accept the report referred to them and did not believe readers of the newspaper would have read the article in the defamatory manner alleged.
Michael Kealy, for Associated Newspapers, said the plaintiffs have not shown they have a reputation within the Republic.
They reside in the North issued proceedings here to circumvent the fact that their possible claims in England or Northern Ireland were statute barred.
Mr Justice Quirke will give judgment today.