'Perverse' damages to drug dealer overturned
The Court of Appeal has overturned a €900,000 damages award against the 'Sunday World' which a judge described as "perverse".
Martin McDonagh has been paid €90,000 of the €900,000 award, made in 2008, pending the outcome of an appeal by the newspaper.
Mr McDonagh (45), of Cranmore Drive, Sligo, sued over an article published on September 5, 1999, describing him as a "Traveller drug king".
A jury found the newspaper had failed to prove Mr Mc Donagh was a drug dealer and a loan shark but had proven he was a tax evader and a criminal.
However, the three-judge appeal court overturned the verdict.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said "viewed objectively" the evidence overwhelmingly points to the conclusion the plaintiff was indeed "a drug dealer associated with the drug seizure" at Tubbercurry, Co Sligo.
Welcoming the decision, Sunday World Editor Colm MacGinty said the fallout from the original "flawed verdict was not limited simply to this story or this newspaper".
"It was a threat to the fundamental constitutional rights of press freedom and free speech," he said.