Thursday 26 April 2018

Senator in defamation claim after web photo mix-up

Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne
Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne
Thomas Byrne

Tim Healy

FIANNA Fail senator Thomas Byrne claims he has been grossly defamed by Google, after the internet giant published a web profile of him with a picture of convicted former solicitor Thomas Byrne.

At the High Court yesterday, Mr Byrne secured an injunction preventing Google Ireland Ltd from publishing the photograph as part of its "Google Knowledge Graph" on the Co Meath based politician.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan granted the interim order under the Defamation Act 2009, restraining publication of the image of Thomas Byrne, convicted solicitor of Walkinstown, Dublin, "as a photo and description" of the Fianna Fail senator.

The matter comes back before the judge next Tuesday.

The Knowledge Graph, which was introduced last year by Google, is designed to enhance Google's search engine.

Its aim is to provide detailed and structured information about a subject or person whose name is typed into the Google search engine.


Jim O'Callaghan, counsel for Senator Byrne -- who was a TD for Meath East from 2007 to 2011 and is also a qualified solicitor -- said it was clear that Google had "made a mistake" and there was no malicious intent.

However, despite being contacted by the Senator and his lawyers, Google had failed to respond to his complaints or remove the defamatory image, counsel said.

Google Ireland, with an address in Barrow Street, Dublin, had failed to respond to solicitors letter sent on November 26 and 27, counsel said.

Senator Byrne had also tried to use the self-correcting mechanism on the Google site to remove the material but to no avail, counsel added.

In an affidavit, Senator Byrne, of Grange Rath, Colpe, Drogheda, Co Meath, said he was informed by a member of the public last Saturday about the image.


Earlier this month, a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court found former solicitor Thomas Byrne of Walkinstown Road, Crumlin Dublin, guilty of 50 theft and fraud charges.

Senator Byrne said the publication of this picture is "grossly defamatory of me in that it clearly and unequivocally conveys and publicises to the public a claim which is factually untrue -- which is to say I have been found guilty of fraud and theft charges."

He said he was "absolutely shocked to see" his personal details were published on a web page under the name "Thomas Byrne" alongside a photograph of the convicted solicitor.

Senator Byrne said he became "very upset" and "extremely concerned about the damaging effect" which the publication of the picture would have on his reputation both as a public representative and as a qualified solicitor.

He said he had been left with "no alternative" but to bring a High Court action seeking to have the "grossly defamatory publication" removed.

Irish Independent

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