Friday 19 December 2014

'Daily Mail' writer denies that he failed to properly research column

Tim Healy

Published 14/02/2013 | 04:00

'IRISH Daily Mail' columnist Paul Drury has denied he failed to properly research a column into the businessman Denis O'Brien.

The reporter (55) also claimed in the High Court he did not have anything to apologise for over the article, which Mr O'Brien says defamed him.

He was under cross-examination on the fifth day of Mr O'Brien's libel action against the 'Mail' publishers, Associated Newspapers, two editors and Mr Drury over the article headlined 'Moriarty is about to report, no wonder Denis O'Brien is acting the saint in stricken Haiti'.

Mr O'Brien (54) says the article accused him of being a hypocrite over his efforts to assist the relief of Haiti, where Mr O'Brien's telecommunications company Digicel has substantial interests.

He says it meant 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 newspaper and the journalists deny the claims.

Mr Drury told Paul O'Higgins SC, for Mr O'Brien, that he could not remember how many press statements he had read which had been issued by Digicel in relation to the earthquake before writing his article but he knew there were a number sent to the 'Mail' on which it partly based some of its news reports about the quake aftermath.

He disagreed that he distorted facts on which the article was based, including that Mr O'Brien used his involvement in other charities like Concern and Amnesty International as photo opportunities.

What he had said was that these presented opportunities for photo ops. He rejected Mr O'Higgins's assertion that he was not meticulous with the facts.

Mr Drury claimed his research included articles from online newspaper and media articles, in particular the American 'Forbes' magazine, which contained a detailed interview with Mr O'Brien in which he spoke about his involvement in Haiti.

Football

Mr Drury insisted what he was doing was commenting on facts which were true. He likened his role as a columnist to that of Eamon Dunphy or Johnny Giles commenting on a football match.

They don't ring the Ireland manager to ask why he picked a particular player or team before they comment on it, Mr Drury said.

He "categorically denied" any suggestion that he repeatedly failed to give accurate facts in his article.

"What I did say and I make no apology for saying it, is that... Mr O'Brien decided to use his presence in Haiti as part of a PR offensive," Mr Drury said.

Paul Field, who was editor-in-chief of the 'Irish Daily Mail' at the time the article was published, told the court he absolutely believed in what Mr Drury had said in the article when he made the decision to publish it.

Earlier yesterday, Mr O'Higgins cleared up confusion which arose on Tuesday over when Charlie Bird was in Haiti after the earthquake.

Solicitor for Mr O'Brien, Fergus Foody, had told the court he had seen a broadcast by Mr Bird on January 15 while an earlier witness, Dominic McSorley, a director with the aid charity Concern, had said he had arrived on the 17th.

Yesterday, Mr O'Higgins SC, said Mr McSorley had accepted his evidence about the date was in error and it was agreed on all sides Mr Bird had arrived on the 15th, when his first TV report was broadcast. Mr O'Higgins said therefore Mr Foody had been perfectly correct in saying he arrived on the 15th.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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