Saturday 21 July 2018

Sinn Féin manager tells High Court he does not accept he now has 'zero reputation' from IRA association

Nicky Kehoe pictured at the Four Courts today for the third day of a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Nicky Kehoe pictured at the Four Courts today for the third day of a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

Sinn Féin political manager, Nicky Kehoe, told the High Court today he did not accept he now has "zero reputation" when it came to his association with the IRA.

He accepted that would be the case in relation to the 1970s and 1980s, when he was involved in IRA activities, but disagreed that was so today.

He was under continuing cross-examination in his action against RTE claiming he was defamed when he was falsely described by former TD Joe Costello, on a Saturday with Claire Byrne live panel radio programme, as a former chief of staff of the IRA who was controlling how SF councillors on Dublin City Council vote.  RTE denies his claims. 

He agreed with Cian Feriter SC, for RTE, he was regularly referred to as a former IRA gunman.

Counsel said this was "very relevant to today".  Mr Kehoe replied: "That is why I am trying to clear my name".

Counsel earlier said that on Thursday, in evidence, he had sought to portray himself as not being really supportive of IRA actions in this State or involving civilians and that did not really represent the truth.  Yet he was a member of a five-man gang "armed to the teeth" in Wicklow in 1983 trying to kidnap then-Brown Thomas owner Galen Weston "who was also a civilian".

Mr Kehoe said that was in the context of the time, "that was 36 years ago".  He was saying he was different now and had to work to re-establish his reputation.

Mr Feriter also put to him that  what he was saying in this case was  that he was defamed because he was called a member of the IRA when he had been in the same organisation in the past. Mr Kehoe replied: "What I am saying is RTE did not carry out their responsibilities right and protect my name".

He said Claire Byrne should have done what other RTE broadcasters, like Joe Duffy or Marian Finucane, do and have said "stop" as soon as his name was mentioned.

But, Mr Feriter said, Ms Byrne did not know his SF colleague on the radio programme, Eoin Ó'Broin, was going to jump in "at lightning speed" and demolish what Joe Costello had said.

When Mr Feriter put it to him that what RTE and Ms Byrne did was entirely fair and appropriate, he said Ms Byrne, as a professional, should have stopped Mr O'Broin mentioning his name.  The court heard the first time Mr Kehoe's name was mentioned on the show was by Mr O'Broin.

Asked did he have a problem with Mr O'Broin mentioning his name and had he said this to Mr O'Broin afterwards, he said no he did not say anything. 

So just as he had said nothing to Mr Costello about it, he had also said nothing to Mr O'Broin, counsel asked.

He replied: "They did not put this across to 250,000 people, it was RTE and Claire Byrne.

Mr Kehoe also said he did not feel he should have just gone to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and made a complaint. 

"I thought it was more serious than that, a name I had built up over 26 years needed more than the Broadcasting Act", he said.

The case continues before a judge and jury.

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