Friday 30 September 2016

Irish Times apologises to well-known psychiatrist over comments posted on its website

Tim Healy

Published 28/01/2016 | 17:24

Patricia Casey
Patricia Casey

THE Irish Times has apologised before the High Court to psychiatrist Patricia Casey over comments posted about her on the publication's website.

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Professor Casey brought defamation proceedings over remarks in the comments section by individuals in July 2013 in relation to articles written by columnist Breda O’Brien and by psychiatrist Prof Brendan Kelly.

Jim O Callaghan SC, for Prof Casey, told Mr Justice Paul Gilligan the action had been resolved between the parties.

As part of the settlement, an apology was read to the court by Cian Ferriter SC on behalf of the newspaper.

It stated: “In the summer of 2013, the Irish Times published on its website a series of articles relating to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill which, at that stage, was progressing though the Houses of the Oireachtas.

"In the comment section beneath the articles that were published on the Irish Times website, two anonymous members of the public made comments stating that Professor Patricia Casey was an unprofessional psychiatrist who was unfit to treat suicidal pregnant women.

"The comments also asserted that Professor Casey misrepresented psychiatric research in order to promote a Catholic agenda."

"The Irish Times accepts that the comments made about Professor Casey were untrue."

It also recognised she was "a psychiatrist of the highest integrity and professionalism and apologised for the distress caused to her by the comments on the website.

Not other details of the settlement were revealed in court.

In a statement afterwards, Prof Casey said she was very pleased with the outcome.

"What was said could not be allowed to stand," she said.

She also said it was a great pity it has taken so long to get to this point.

"I believe this is an important case because it will hopefully lead online editions of newspapers and other similar websites to think again about the sort of online comments they allow about people."

"Defamatory comments would not be permitted to appear in the letters pages of newspapers so why should they be allowed to appear in the comments sections of the online editions of those same newspapers?", she said.

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