An Irish soccer fan, one of eight who claim they were wrongly depicted on-line as “drunken hooligans” who took part in FAI chief John Delaney’s Sopot shoes and socks prank during Euro 2012, has lost a bid to sue The Irish Sun newspaper for defamation.
Judge Jacqueline Linnane today in a reserved judgment told barrister James McGowan, counsel for News Group Newspapers Ltd., that Peter McGee had left it too late by a matter of days to issue defamation proceedings against his client. She refused to allow McGee launch fresh claims.
The judge had in February last granted seven others leave to issue new proceedings because they were within time with their applications. They were Darragh Agnew of Dalkey Rock, Arburgh Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin, and seven of his friends, Ross Zambra, Kevin Brophy, Darragh Kirk, Mark O’Connor, Richard O’Farrell and Kevin Daly.
The group claimed they were defamed after a picture of them appeared on the Irish Sun website, allegedly associating them with an unrelated article of other fans carousing in Poland and carrying Delaney head high back towards his hotel.
The court heard the article had been headlined “FAI boss Delaney stripped by fans.”
The group claimed the photograph, which showed Agnew and his friends in a group picture with Delaney, had been taken in a pub several hours before the shoe incident on the streets of Sopot.
Agnew and his friends claimed they had no act or part in the incident which, they alleged, involved another group of fans altogether who had stripped Delaney of his socks and shoes and had drunk alcohol from one of his shoes.
They alleged they had been depicted as “drunken louts and hooligans at the centre of a loutish mob that had drunkenly lifted the FAI chief executive.”
Agnew, a financial services administrator, claims his standing with his employer had been damaged by the allegations and that his family, friends and colleagues had been wrongly led to believe he had been centrally involved in the incident.
Judge Linnane said the 2009 Defamation Act had amended the Statute of Limitations restricting the bringing of a claim to one year after publication of a cause of action or within two years but only by special leave of the court.
Granting Mr McGowan’s application for costs she said Mr McGee’s issuing of late proceedings had failed to fall within the strict limitations of the 2009 Defamation Act.