Friday 21 October 2016

Eurovision star Dana denies defaming family members in TV3 interview

Published 11/10/2016 | 17:29

Eurovision Song Contest winner and former Irish presidential candidate Dana Rosemary
Eurovision Song Contest winner and former Irish presidential candidate Dana Rosemary

Former Presidential candidate and Eurovision song contest winner Dana Rosemary Scallan has denied claims by her sister and a niece she defamed them, the High Court heard.

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It arises out of a 2011 TV interview when Ms Scallon was asked about allegations of sexual abuse made against Dana's brother John.

Susan Stein and her daughter Susan Gorrell, both living in Iowa, US, have taken separate High Court actions alleging Dana defamed them during the interview broadcast on TV3 in October 2011 during the presidential election campaign.

Dana, they claim, made statements which meant both women maliciously made up claims Ms Gorrell was sexually abused between 1971-81 by her uncle, John Brown. They claim the allegations of abuse are true.

Mr Brown (62), of Bracknell, Berkshire, England, was cleared in July 2014 of charges of indecent assault brought of two girls aged under 13 and 16 at several locations in Northern Ireland and England in the 1970s and 80s.

He denied all the claims against him and also denied claims that Dana, a key witness in his defence, helped him cover up the allegations.

In her defence to the actions by Ms Stein and Ms Gorrell, Dana, of Claregalway, Co Galway, denies defamation.

She pleads the sexual abuse claims against her brother John first surfaced in 2005 during a US court dispute involving members of her family, including Ms Stein and Mr Brown, concerning copyright of her records and ownership of a music company, Heartbeat Records, described as the “number one stop for Catholic product”.

Accompanied by her husband Damian, Dana was in the High Court Tuesday for the opening before Mr Justice Robert Eagar of her pre-trial application for orders requiring the plaintiffs provide security for her legal costs should they lose their actions.

Oisin Quinn SC, for Dana, said she has a “full and thorough” defence to both cases but believed the plaintiffs would be unable to meet her costs - which she estimates at €425,000 and the plaintiffs estimate at €169,000 - should they lose. 

During an interview broadcast on TV3 on October 14th 2011 when Dana was running for the presidency, she was asked about allegations circulating about John Brown, he said.

The “sting” of the plaintiffs claim was words used by Dana, who had not named the plaintiffs, meant they were lying about the allegations of Ms Gorrell being abused by Mr Brown and had maliciously made up the claims, counsel said.

In October 2011, Ms Gorrell made a complaint to the UK police and Mr Brown was tried concerning her claims of sexual abuse and acquitted of all charges, counsel said.

The security for costs application was brought on grounds including a claim neither plaintiff has assets here, he said.

In dealing with this application, the court was not required to adjudicate on the merits of the defence, he said.

There was a direct factual conflict between the plaintiffs and Dana on a key issue, he said.  Both plaintiffs claimed Ms Gorrell was abused by Mr Brown and Dana was told of that many decades ago and essentially covered it up, which claims Dana denied. 

Her defence to these cases included denials the words in her interview meant what was alleged, counsel said. She would also rely on pleas of honest opinion on a matter of public interest and on pleas of truth and justification in relation to some of the claims advanced.

In opposing the security for costs application, both plaintiffs contend their case is in the public interest.

They also say they have “after the event” insurance cover under which the insurer will pay out €150,000 should they lose their actions but will have to pay the insurer if they win.

Dana's side argue such an arrangement is illegal here and amounts to “champerty”.

The hearing continues Wednesday. 

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