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Sunday Times seek to dismiss libel action by businessman Dermot Desmond

THE Sunday Times has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss on the grounds of delay a libel action by businessman Dermot Desmond over an article on the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) written 15 years ago.

The newspaper five years ago lost a High Court bid to prevent the millionaire businessman suing it for libel over the 1998 article.

On that occasion Mr Justice John MacMenamin ruled while there was inordinate and inexcusable delay by Mr Desmond in advancing the action, the Sunday Times had not shown that the delay had resulted in more than  marginal or potential prejudice to the defence.

A three-judge Supreme Court yesterday reserved judgement on the appeal after hearing submissions on both sides.

John Gleeson SC, for the newspaper, said Mr Desmond had appeared to adopt a "wait and see" approach.

The businessman, counsel said, had withdrawn five other libel actions arising out of the same period. They were he said  "allowed to wither on the vine" and no explanation had been given for the dropping of the five cases.

Counsel said he would be asking the court to find there was an inordinate delay of six and a half years in the case  against the Sunday Times and another action by Mr Desmond.

He said Mr Desmond had failed to inform the other side why he was delaying so long. The court, he said, should dismiss the proceedings.

Counsel for Mr Desmond, Robert Barron SC, said the claim that Mr Desmond had not informed the Sunday Times if he intended to park the proceedings was not a point against him and the newspaper group had not asked or complained about the situation.

The proceedings arise from an article published by the Sunday Times on March 1, 1998. Mr Desmond claims he was libelled in the article, that it meant he had wrongly taken the credit for the idea of the IFSC and had obtained the idea from a leak in the Department of Finance.

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