Thursday 18 October 2018

SF manager claims he was 'hugely defamed' by RTÉ

Sinn Féin political manager Nicky Kehoe claims he was defamed on the Claire Byrne radio programme on RTÉ. Picture: Courtpix
Sinn Féin political manager Nicky Kehoe claims he was defamed on the Claire Byrne radio programme on RTÉ. Picture: Courtpix

Tim Healy

A defamation action by Sinn Féin political manager Nicky Kehoe against RTÉ is set to begin today in the High Court.

Mr Kehoe claims he was defamed in comments made by former Labour Party TD Joe Costello during a live 'Saturday with Claire Byrne' radio programme on October 24, 2015.

He says Mr Costello falsely stated that he was a member of the Provisional IRA army council, and in that role he attended meetings of Dublin City Council and directed how Sinn Féin councillors would vote.

RTÉ denies he was defamed and says it is not liable for the matters he complains of.

RTE broadcaster Claire Byrne. Picture: Courtpix
RTE broadcaster Claire Byrne. Picture: Courtpix

A jury was empanelled yesterday by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.

Before they were selected, all potential jurors were told by the judge that if they were members of Sinn Féin, or party activists, or were employed by or had connections with RTÉ or the Claire Byrne programme, they should not serve on the jury.

Giving a brief synopsis of the case earlier to the jury panel, the judge said Mr Kehoe was a political manager of Sinn Féin and a director of elections for the party in June 2014. He was a well-known and senior member of Sinn Féin and had previously represented the party on the city council.

The judge said that Mr Kehoe says he was defamed during a conversation on the radio programme involving Mr Costello and current Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin.

In essence, the judge said, Mr Kehoe, who was not part of that radio debate, says he was "hugely defamed" by Mr Costello's comments that he was a IRA army council member and that he controlled "like a puppet master how Sinn Féin councillors voted".

RTÉ had not held up its hands, the judge said.

It did not accept that what was said was capable of bearing the defamatory meaning Mr Kehoe claims it did - but that was a matter for the jury, the judge said.

RTÉ also says Mr Ó Broin, who was on the programme for Sinn Féin, was able to "give as good as he got and defended Nicky Kehoe".

It was a public broadcast on a matter of public interest which enjoys protection in law, RTÉ also pleads.

Irish Independent

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