Friday 23 March 2018

Formation of PDs: Radio interview sparks legal row

Former Press Secretary Peter Prendergast
Former Press Secretary Peter Prendergast

Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

The Government agreed to pay the legal costs of Press Secretary Peter Prendergast after defamation proceedings were signalled against him by barrister Adrian Hardiman over an item on RTE's 'Morning Ireland' programme.

Mr Hardiman signalled the defamation proceedings just weeks before he became one of the founding members of the new Progressive Democrat Party in 1985.

The barrister went on to become a key confidant of senior PDs including Des O'Malley, Mary Harney and, in particular, Michael McDowell.

Mr Hardiman is now a Supreme Court judge having been appointed in 2000.

In a December 11, 1985 memo to Patrick O'hUiginn, secretary at the Department of An Taoiseach, the Attorney-General's Office confirmed: "(it) is of the opinion that it would be appropriate for the State to discharge the reasonable defence costs of Mr Prendergast in these proceedings."

The issue arose over an interview on RTE's 'Morning Ireland's programme on October 10 1985.

Mr Hardiman was giving expert opinion on the extradition and subsequent quashing of a conviction for Dominic McGlinchey in Northern Ireland.

Mr Hardiman, in the interview, had been critical of the legal stance taken by Ireland over the extradition proceedings.

After Mr Hardiman's interview, Mr Prendergast issued a press statement on behalf of the Government.

However, RTE did not broadcast the statement.

The following day, a British tabloid 'The Daily Mirror' published a story based, in part, on the issued release.

Mr Hardiman took exception to what was included in the statement.

His solicitor, Michael Hanahoe, wrote to the Government Press Secretary on October 17 seeking a retraction, an apology and an agreement to pay legal costs.

A letter was also sent to 'The Daily Mirror'.

Irish Independent

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