Monday 18 February 2019

Interpreter in Lawlor case settles libel actions

Julia Kushnir leaves court after settlement was reached over coverage of the Moscow crash in which Liam Lawlor died
Julia Kushnir leaves court after settlement was reached over coverage of the Moscow crash in which Liam Lawlor died

Tim Healy

A Ukrainian interpreter who survived the car crash in which former Fianna Fail TD Liam Lawlor died has settled libel actions against five newspapers for undisclosed sums.

Julia Kushnir (31), a Prague-based interpreter, has received "substantial damages" from the 'Sunday World', the 'Sunday Tribune' and the 'Sunday Independent', the High Court heard yesterday, over articles claiming she was a prostitute travelling in the car with the former TD.

Separate actions against the Irish Independent and the 'Sunday Mirror', due to take place today and Friday have also been settled, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne was told. It's believed the settlement involved could amount to around €500,000.

The case against the 'Sunday World' was to begin yesterday after a jury of seven men and five women was empanelled.

Apologies

However, Paul O'Higgins, for Ms Kushnir, asked for an adjournment to allow discussions to take place between the parties.

When the court resumed, lawyers for the 'Sunday World' and the 'Sunday Independent' read out apologies.

In them, they said the newspapers were happy to assert that Ms Kushnir is a respectable family woman who has no involvement in prostitution.

The allegations against Ms Kushnir were "totally false" and wholly unjust and unfair to her and her family. Both papers have given "substantial damages" as a result of these unfair and untrue articles.

Eoin McCullough, for Independent Newspapers, said a similar apology had been issued in relation to the 'Sunday Tribune', whose case was due to be heard tomorrow.

Ms Justice Dunne struck out the actions with an order that the plaintiff costs in each case be taxed. Ms Kushnir, who travelled to Dublin for the cases, declined to comment yesterday.

Her solicitor, Ian Simon, said she was very happy but that the case was never about money or libel as two people had died in the crash. Ms Kushnir was visibly upset in court yesterday while the apologies were being read out. She had previously settled a libel action against the 'Observer' newspaper earlier this year for €100,000.

All the actions related to their reporting of the crash in Moscow on October 22, 2005 when Mr Lawlor was travelling from the airport to the city centre. He and his driver, Ruslan Suliamanov, died when their car hit a lamp post.

A female passenger, Ms Kushnir, was reported by the newspapers as having survived but she was described in headlines in the 'Sunday World' and the 'Sunday Independent' as a prostitute, the court heard yesterday.

Earlier this year, the 'Sunday World' lost a High Court application to compel Ms Kushnir to lodge €30,000 in court as security towards legal costs if her case failed. Lawyers for the 'Sunday World' and Independent Newspapers, which owns the 'Sunday Independent' and the 'Irish Independent', also tried unsuccessfully to have the cases heard together.

The court also heard a number of witnesses had planned to travel to Dublin from the Czech Republic, New York and Israel for the cases this week.

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