'Article was cynical, not malicious'
Published 13/02/2013 | 04:00
'IRISH Daily Mail' writer Paul Drury has told the High Court he is "by nature and profession somewhat cynical".
The reporter said an article he wrote about businessman Denis O'Brien was his opinion. He said there was no agenda to write negative reports in the 'Daily Mail' about Mr O'Brien.
"I was offering a legitimate piece of opinion on a matter of enormous public interest that affected and continues to affect every one in this country," he claimed.
Mr Drury (55) was answering a final question put to him by counsel for the 'Mail' Oisin Quinn on the fourth day of Mr O'Brien's libel action against the newspaper publishers, Associated Newspapers, two editors and Mr Drury over his column on January 22, 2010.
Written the week after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it was headlined: "Moriarty is about to report, no wonder Denis O'Brien is acting the saint in stricken Haiti."
Mr O'Brien (54) said the article accused him of being a hypocrite over his efforts to assist the relief effort in Haiti where Mr O'Brien's telecommunications company Digicel has substantial interests.
He said it meant that what he was doing in Haiti was motivated by self-interest and designed to deflect attention away from the Moriarty Tribunal report which contained findings adverse to Mr O'Brien, but which he strongly disputes.
The claims are denied.
Mr Drury told the jury he "believed what I said, I believe it now and I will believe it to the day I die".
Earlier, he told Mr Quinn that he disagreed strongly with what Mr O'Brien had said about him being motivated by malice and spite and that the article was nasty and mean-spirited.
He said a letter from Mr O'Brien's lawyers to the paper after the article, describing it as a malicious assault on his (Mr O'Brien's) good name and character, was itself an "outrageous assault on my good name".
While he was more than happy to agree the article was cynical about Mr O'Brien, it was not malicious as "I have not a malicious bone in my body" and he bore Mr O'Brien no animus whatsoever.
Mr Drury disputed Mr O'Brien's claim that there were several things that were factually wrong in the article, though he accepted it was wrong to say he was a multi-millionaire "because he is in fact a multi- billionaire".
Mr Drury said he was "by nature and profession somewhat cynical". He claimed that this was part of his job.
The court heard that confusion surrounded a news report by RTE correspondent Charlie Bird which was transmitted two days before he flew there.
The broadcast appeared to show Mr Bird at Port-au-Prince Airport on January 15, 2010. It was claimed in court he only flew to Haiti on January 17.
Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne commented it may have been that "too much faith had been put in RTE".