Pensioner gets €70,000 for RTE comedy libel
A GUESTHOUSE owner who was defamed when a sketch on an RTE radio programme described his premises as "a byword for prostitution" was awarded €70,000 in damages by a High Court jury yesterday.
Vincent O'Toole (84), who owns the Maryland House, the Mall, Waterford city, sued the station claiming he was defamed in a 'Nob Nation' sketch on 2FM's Gerry Ryan Show in August 2008.
The court heard he had previously successfully sued the 'Sunday World' over a similar libel and was awarded €50,000 in damages.
RTE accepted he had been defamed and the jury of six men and six women were asked yesterday to assess damages to include, if appropriate, aggravated damages.
After two hours and 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury said it had assessed damages at €70,000, including aggravated damages.
The court heard RTE had already made a lodgment in court of €52,250 in relation to the case and counsel for Mr O'Toole, John Gordon, asked that that sum be paid out immediately in part satisfaction of the award.
Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne did so and also awarded costs to Mr O'Toole.
Afterwards, Mr O'Toole said he had been vindicated although the amount he received "wouldn't paint my house."
He said RTE had spent time chasing a man of 84 and taking his name away.
"They took three years to apologise to me. It was unpardonable," he said, adding that he did not forgive the broadcasting station "under any circumstances".
During the four-day case, the court heard the 'Nob Nation' sketch featured the character "Kevin My-arse" giving a "Linguaphone" guide to Waterford slang.
It stated: "The Maryland is a byword in Waterford for prostitution, although the original establishment from whence the term is derived has ceased business."
Mr O'Toole said the words suggested he was a brothel-keeper, that his home was the haunt of undesirables and that he was or is involved in racketeering.
RTE said that it was sorry for the broadcast but denied Mr O'Toole had been brought into public scandal, odium or contempt.
Mr O'Toole told the court he was "thunderstruck " and "disgusted" by the broadcast. He could not understand why anybody could sink to such a low level.
"That is the way the media is going these days," he said. "They are out of control."
He said he was a pensioner on €300 a week and felt there was no chance of getting his business going. A man who wanted a room believed his premises was a brothel and wanted to know "the price", he said.
His wife, Ruth, told the court there were ongoing problems with people calling to the premises looking for prostitutes.