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Senator disputes article was part of 'rough and tumble' of politics


Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey. Picture: Collins

Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey. Picture: Collins

Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey. Picture: Collins

A Fine Gael TD will say he was "astonished" FG Senator Paudie Coffey is suing for defamation over a newspaper article, the High Court heard.

Senator Coffey says the January 2016 article in the Kilkenny People was a major factor in the loss of his Waterford Dáil seat. He also disputes that the story was "part of the rough and tumble of politics".

He is suing Iconic Newspapers over comments it published from Deputy John Paul Phelan describing a proposal to bring part of the Kilkenny administrative area in Waterford city as "daylight robbery".

Deputy Phelan said there was a "bloodthirsty" 18th century highwayman called "Crotty the Robber" and now "Coffey the Robber" was trying to do the same thing.

Senator Coffey says that was defamatory. The publisher denies this. He was in his fourth day in the witness box and his third under cross examination.

Counsel for the newspaper Rossa Fanning suggested to him this was "part of the rough and tumble of politics" and that when Deputy Phelan gives evidence, he will tell the jury he is "astonished we are here".

Mr Fanning put it to Senator Coffey that he was not the first politician to be compared to fictional or historical characters.

They included, he said, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who is referred to as "Vlad" in the 'Phoenix' magazine, Roscommon politician Luke "Ming" Flanagan, and former Justice Minister John O'Donoghue who was known as "Bull McCabe". None of those politicians had sued, he said.

Senator Coffey replied that none of those people had been called a robber.

The case continues.

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