Publican wins €60,000 over poison pen letter
A PUBLICAN has been awarded €60,000 damages over a poison pen letter – which he discovered had been written by a neighbour by comparing the writing to a signature on a pub raffle card.
John Lackey (59), who owns a pub at Doughill, Curraroe, Co Roscommon, sued neighbour John Brehon for defamation over the anonymous letter.
The letter falsely claimed Mr Lackey was waiting for his bachelor uncle in Clare to die so he could get his land and money to spend on "wine, women and song".
Mr Brehon had previously denied writing the 2003 letter which had been addressed to the uncle, Martin McNamara.
However, a handwriting expert concluded that she had no doubt he was the author of the malicious letter.
Mr Brehon dismissed his legal team last week and wasn't present in the High Court yesterday. But the court heard he was aware the case was to go ahead and Mr Justice Eamon de Valera instructed the jury to give its verdict.
The jury unanimously found Mr Brehon had written and published the letter and awarded €50,000 in general damages with €10,000 in aggravated damages.
Mr Lackey, who bought his pub 13 years ago, told the court Mr Brehon regularly visited the premises for soft drinks.
When he went on a visit to his uncle he noticed the defamatory letter addressed as "Martin McNamara, bachelor farmer, Kilfernora, Co Clare". Mr McNamara has since died.
Mr Lackey, who says he's still upset by the letter, recognised Mr Brehon's handwriting when he filled in a card for a raffle in his pub for a Christmas hamper.
He said he reported the matter to the gardai but was told Mr Brehon simply denied it.
The letter stated Mr Lackey "goes down to you in Clare, Martin, because he wants your house, land and money". It said Mr Lackey "gets drunk in his pub in Roscommon and brags about getting all when you McNamaras are dead, he cannot wait to get you all in (the) cemetery."
It also said: "John Lackey tells us all up here in Roscommon that you have your land signed over to him and he also says he will have all your money and house, all will be squandered, sold, and a mighty time of wine, women and song will follow, I swear to the Lord all this is true Martin".
The letter also made defamatory allegations against Diane Lynch, who previously lived over John Lackey's pub, it was claimed.