Friday 20 September 2019

'Highway robber' headline taken as a 'complete joke', libel court to hear

Senator Paudie Coffie: Suing Iconic Newspapers. Photo: Collins Courts
Senator Paudie Coffie: Suing Iconic Newspapers. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

Former Ireland international rugby player Mick Galwey took an article comparing a former junior minister to a highway robber to be a "complete joke", the High Court heard.

Mr Galwey will be giving evidence in the defamation case taken by Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey against Iconic Newspapers, the publishers of the 'Kilkenny People'.

Senator Coffey claims an article published by the newspaper in January 2016 caused him to be ridiculed and damaged his reputation.

Iconic Newspapers denies the claims.

The article quoted verbatim a press release from Senator Coffey's Kilkenny FG colleague John Paul Phelan TD, who claimed the then TD and junior minister was trying to "rob" part of Kilkenny with the support of then environment minister Alan Kelly.

Mr Phelan said an 18th-Century highwayman who hid in the Comeragh Mountains was known as "Crotty the Robber" and his colleague was now "Coffey the Robber", the headline used for the article.

The article was first brought to Mr Coffey's attention by a cousin who received an email from mutual friend Mick Galwey with a picture of the newspaper page and the comment: "Is this the best headline ever in the 'Kilkenny People' this week, class, not even the Bomber will get ye out of this!!!!!!"

Mr Coffey also complained Mr Galwey used the words "here comes Coffey the robber" when the pair met among friends at a Thomond Park rugby match shortly afterwards. It was that incident which finally prompted him to bring legal proceedings.

At the end of a day-long cross-examination by Rossa Fanning SC, for Iconic, it was put to Senator Coffey that Mr Galwey will say "he took it as a complete joke".

Mr Coffey replied: "I did not take it as a joke when my name was called out in a crowded area and my name was being pulled into the muck."

Counsel showed the court a photo of Mr Galwey at the same rugby match in Thomond Park with Mr Galwey in the middle and his arms around Mr Coffey and the senator's cousin.

When counsel put it to him it didn't look like Mr Galwey didn't want to be associated with him and would say it was "all banter", Mr Coffey replied that it was causing hurt to him.

"I want to suggest all this meant you are taking it all too seriously and taking yourself too seriously," Mr Fanning said.

"You might think its a joke and Mick Galwey might think it a joke," Mr Coffey replied.

"The match where that photo was taken was just one of many incidents where people consistently referred to me as a robber as a result of that article and I was highly embarrassed."

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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