A RADIO station has apologised and paid damages to Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch over untrue claims she only commented on the death of Kerry teen Donal Walsh (16) to garner publicity for herself.
The defamation action was taken by the veteran Labour Party TD over an item broadcast by Cork’s 96FM two years ago in which it had been suggested she publicly commented on the death of Kerry teen Donal Walsh to generate publicity.
The 16 year old Kerry student died in May 2013 after a four year battle with cancer.
Donal made headlines nationwide through his courage in facing his illness and his heartfelt anti-suicide and self-harm plea to young people.
Ms Lynch launched High Court proceedings against 96FM following a broadcast of the Neil Prendeville Show on May 13 2013.
It had been claimed during the broadcast that the Cork North Central TD had commented publicly on Donal Walsh’s death for the purpose of generating publicity for herself.
In settling the action, the station acknowledged that this statement was wrong and untrue.
It also accepted that the Labour politician had worked with the Kerry teenager and his family in her official capacity as Minister for State for Mental Health in order to help bring about suicide awareness and prevention.
Undisclosed damages are now being paid to Ms Lynch.
96FM broadcast an apology in relation to the settlement of the action yesterday.
Mr. Prendeville and his production team left 96FM to rival Cork station, RedFM, last year.
They were replaced by radio journalist, PJ Coogan, Deirdre O’Shaughnessy and Brenda Dennehy.
The departure of Mr Prendeville sparked a ratings war between the two stations over the key morning radio slot.
He is now the highest paid broadcaster outside Dublin.
At the time of Donal Walsh’s death, Ms Lynch paid a moving tribute to him and his family.
She described Donal as “an extraordinary young man.”
“(For) someone that young to be so articulate, to be so mature, and even when he was having huge difficulties, to reach out to others. I think that is what I found extraordinary about him,” she said.
Ms Lynch also said she had previously contacted the Walsh family to ask if Donal would be willing to participate in an anti-suicide campaign given his high-profile appeal in relation to the matter.
“The other thing we were very conscious of that that this was going to be done after Donal was gone - that was very obvious and the family needed to be very comfortable about it, very comfortable,” she said.
The Walsh family has, over the past two years, received multiple awards on behalf of their late son for his inspirational courage and the leadership he demonstrated in relation to the battle against teen suicide.
A book written by Donal’s family about his experiences became a best-seller in Ireland.