Saturday 14 December 2019

RTE seeks legal costs against Green Party trustee following the rejection of court bid over televised leaders' debate

Eamon Ryan
Eamon Ryan

RTE is seeking legal costs against a Green Party trustee following the rejection of his legal challenge to the broadcaster's refusal to invite Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to participate in a televised party leaders debate.

The debate, broadcast on February 15th, featured seven leaders from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein, People Before Profit, the Social Democrats and Renua.

Just hours before the debate, Ms Justice Marie Baker gave her ruling dismissing arguments by Green Party trustee Tom Kivlehan that RTE's criterion stipulating only parties with three TDs in the outgoing Dail could be invited to participate was unfair, undemocratic and unconstitutional and brwached RTE's legal obligations a public service broadcaster.

The judge found RTE's criteria were "sufficiently reasonable and impartial", not unfair or irrational, and proportionate to the needs of the political debate and the public's right to be informed and educated in an engaging live programme.

Her primary difficulty with the arguments advanced by Mr Kivlehan was that many of the considerations the Greens urged should be taken into account by RTE would favour the party over other possible participants in the TV debate, she said.

The judge also ruled that RTE's choice of criteria can be judicially reviewed and said "fundamental and core democratic ideals", including the right to freedom of expression, were raised in the proceedings.

When costs issues came before the judge on Wednesday, Nuala Butler SC, for RTE, said it was seeking its costs and the normal rule that costs go to the wimning side should apply.

Siobhán Phelan SC, for Mr Kivlehan, indicated her side would contend the case raised issues of public importance and the normal rule on costs should not apply.

Because the judge was at hearing in another matter, she said she would hear arguments on the costs issue on Wednesday, March 2nd.

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