Thursday 14 November 2019

IT expert reviews businessman Sean Gallagher’s computer files in RTE defamation case

Former presidential election candidate Sean Gallagher. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Former presidential election candidate Sean Gallagher. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

An IT expert has been examining computer records held by former presidential candidate Sean Gallagher as part of his protracted defamation proceedings against RTÉ, the High Court has heard.

Cyber security experts BSI Group were appointed last month to conduct a comprehensive review of the material, which RTÉ is seeking access to as part of the pretrial discovery process.

Mr Gallagher is suing the broadcaster for damages over the ‘Tweetgate’ incident during the 2011 presidential election campaign.

RTÉ previously tried to have the claim struck out on the grounds Mr Gallagher had failed to properly disclose the material.

Last April Mr Justice David Keane found Mr Gallagher had been negligent in dealing with the discovery request, but decided this did not warrant the striking out of the proceedings.

The judge also ordered that an independent expert be appointed to end the impasse over discovery.

The material sought by RTE includes communications such as e-mails and documents generated during the course of Mr Gallagher’s campaign, including any polls or research conducted on his behalf.

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for Mr Gallagher, told the court today that the majority of the computer records sought were held on an NAS (network attached storage) device and that “significant progress” had been made.

“This device has now been successfully preserved and the data on it analysed and categorised,” he said.

However, Mr O’Callaghan said BSI had highlighted eight outstanding questions for his client. He said he hoped these could be answered by the end of the week.

Douglas Clarke BL, for RTÉ, said his client had expressed concerns about delays in the process.

He claimed there had been a failure by Mr Gallagher to engage fully with queries raised by the IT experts.

Both sides agreed the matter could be adjourned to October.

The action arises out of a tweet read out by presenter Pat Kenny during the final televised debate of the campaign, prior to which Mr Gallagher was regarded as the frontrunner.

A Twitter account with a username similar to that of the official Martin McGuinness campaign, but not linked to Mr McGuinness, said a man who claimed he had given a €5,000 cheque to Mr Gallagher would appear at a press conference the next day.

Mr Gallagher successfully complained to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland about the reading out of the tweet, with the BAI finding it was “unfair” to him.

He is now seeking damages and a declaration the debate was unfairly edited, presented and directed by RTE in order to damage his electoral prospects.

RTÉ denies the claims and has alleged Mr Gallagher damaged his own election prospects because of the manner in which he responded to certain assertions.

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