Wednesday 24 January 2018

Harney receives €450,000 over radio 'alcoholic' slur

Mary Harney: former Health Minister
Mary Harney: former Health Minister

Fergus Black

FORMER Tanaiste Mary Harney has received a €450,000 payout in compensation for a radio slur made about her live on air.

The ex-Health Minister sued Newstalk radio station after journalist Nell McCafferty made untrue comments suggesting she was an alcoholic.

The allegations were completely false, and Ms Harney launched legal proceedings in March of last year.

Ms Harney sued Newstalk after comments by Ms McCafferty about the minister on Tom Dunne's light entertainment morning show in March 2010.

The controversial allegations against Ms Harney were immediately declared as untrue by Newstalk and the offending interview was withdrawn from the station's website.

Ms Harney, who had been on a 15-day visit to New Zealand, held extensive discussions with her departmental officials and legal advisers before deciding to take legal action.

The radio station declined to comment on the case last night.

However, reliable sources confirmed the out-of-court settlement had been made with Ms Harney.

Issue

The former Health Minister, who stepped down from office in advance of the February general election, was unavailable for comment last night.

The radio station's owner, businessman Denis O'Brien, also declined to comment.

A spokesperson said the matter was a Newstalk issue.

Paddy Prendiville, editor of 'The Phoenix' magazine, which carries details of the settlement today, said the case had been heading for the High Court despite an approach by Denis O'Brien to Ms Harney to discuss the issue.

What had followed was the "most effusive" apologies in defamation history, he told RTE radio yesterday.

"I know Mary Harney wanted €1m and she got very nearly half that," he said.

Ms Harney had been successful in the courts in the past, giving the money she received to Peamount Hospital in Newcastle, Co Dublin.

Mr Prendiville said they had posed the question, would she sustain this generous approach by giving the latest sum to the hospital.

Given her various pension entitlements and termination payments she could well afford to give it to charity, he added.

Irish Independent

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