Monday 16 September 2019

Mick Galwey called me 'robber' at game, Coffey tells defamation hearing

Paudie Coffey: senator is suing a newspaper. Picture: Collins
Paudie Coffey: senator is suing a newspaper. Picture: Collins

Tim Healy

A Fine Gael senator who is suing over a newspaper story which he says described him as a "robber", told the High Court of his shock and upset.

"I just could not believe what it contained," Paudie Coffey said. He said the article "hugely contributed" to the loss of his Dáil seat in 2016, was "a pure fabrication" and caused him to be ridiculed.

He brought defamation proceedings because the 'Kilkenny People' refused to retract and offer redress for the January 2016 article.

Headed 'Coffey the Robber', it carried comments from party colleague John Paul Phelan TD about proposals to extend part of the local administrative area of Kilkenny into neighbouring Waterford.

Mr Coffey said he learned of the article from an email sent by former Ireland international rugby player Mick Galwey to a first cousin of the senator. He told his counsel, Barney Quirke, he was later subject to comments and ridicule at funerals, social events, hurling and rugby matches.

At a rugby match in Thomond Park, he met Mr Galwey who was in the company of others, including well known fellow players, when Mr Galwey "turned round and said here comes Coffey the robber and there was a big laugh".

He said that after he lost his Dáil seat he got "so low" he contemplated leaving politics.

Cross-examined by Rossa Fanning SC, for the paper, he said he did not think of suing Mr Phelan or asking him for a retraction or apology because it was not him who published the article.

He disagreed with counsel it would have been "politically impossible to sue Deputy Phelan because you are a member of the same party".

He said Mr Phelan approached him, asking about him suing the 'Kilkenny People'. "He said 'can't you be bigger and step back' and I said 'No, I was damaged by that paper'."

He agreed he did complain to the chairman of the FG parliamentary party about a colleague making these "outrageous" remarks about him. The case continues.

Irish Independent

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