Tuesday 12 December 2017

Hogan suing TV3 over claim Browne called him 'bigoted'

Phil Hogan (inset) is suing TV3 over comments made by Vincent Browne
Phil Hogan

Tim Healy

ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan is suing TV3 for defamation arising out of comments made by the broadcaster Vincent Browne, the High Court has heard.

Mr Hogan claims he was defamed on 'Tonight with Vincent Browne' on May 20 of last year by the broadcaster, in an exchange with Fine Gael TD and now Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan, who was a panelist on the show.

It is alleged Mr Browne described Mr Hogan as being "a bigoted racist" arising out of representations made by Mr Hogan on behalf of a constituent over the suitability of a family, who are members of the Travelling community for a vacant council property in Co Kilkenny.

Mr Hogan claims the remarks inferred he was prejudiced towards Travellers, sought to prevent the housing of members of the Travelling community, had breached the Incitement to Hatred Act and was not suitable for his role as minister or a TD.

He says the allegedly defamatory remarks have damaged his reputation and caused him extreme stress.

Mr Hogan is seeking damages and a correction order, and an order directing TV3 to remove the broadcast in question from its website.

TV3 denies his claims on grounds including that Mr Browne's statements consisted of an opinion honestly held by him. This opinion was based on grounds including that Mr Hogan made a number of public statements, including contact with Kilkenny County Council, regarding the matter.

In a pre-trial application to the High Court yesterday, Mr Hogan asked for an order amending his original statement of claim. Mr Hogan wished to amend his claim after checking a number of factual matters and several matters needed to be clarified, his counsel Rossa Fanning said.

However, counsel argued the amendments did not affect the central issues of Mr Hogan's claim.

Mr Hogan wanted it made clear he had "no issues" with members of the Travelling community and in his capacity as a public representative had made representations to provide housing for Travellers.

TV3, represented by Marcus Dowling BL, opposed the application. Counsel for the television station argued that Mr Hogan, by seeking to amend his claim, was trying to "gloss over" serious factual inaccuracies in his original statement of claim.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan ruled that Mr Hogan was entitled to amend his statement of claim.

The case will be listed for hearing before a judge and jury at a future date.

Irish Independent

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