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Monday 22 October 2018

Reynolds begins appeal today against 1p libel award

BERNARD PURCELL

FORMER Taoiseach Albert Reynolds will today ask a London court to overturn a jury ruling that awarded him just one penny in damages for a libel by the Sunday Times.

FORMER Taoiseach Albert Reynolds will today ask a London court to overturn a jury ruling that awarded him just one penny in damages for a libel by the Sunday Times.

The 1996 ruling is also being contested by the newspaper.

A London jury originally found that Mr Reynolds had been libelled but he was left with the bill for costs estimated to be around £1m for the six week trial.

Counsel for Mr Reynolds had sought damages ranging between a minimum of £45,000 and a maximum of £120,000.

The jury ruled the libel had not been malicious and awarded just one penny in damages.

The newspaper in its 1994 account of the break-up of the Fianna Fail/Labour coalition called Mr Reynolds a ``gombeen man'' who deliberately misled the Dail and his Cabinet colleagues with ``a fib too far'' over the Fr Brendan Smyth affair and the appointment of then Attorney General Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court.

The article was headlined: ``Goodbye Gombeen Man Why a fib too far was fatal for Mr Fix-It.''

Today at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Chief Justice Bingham, sitting with Lords Justices Hirst and Robert-Walker, will be asked by Mr Reynolds to rule that the original libel trial judge, Mr Justice French, was flawed in his summing up. If successful it will mean a retrial for Mr Reynolds.

The Sunday Times will ask the court to overturn the jury's original finding of libel and will claim the original article was covered by qualified privilege and that the article of November 20, 1994 was justified.

Mr Reynolds argues the trial judge erred in his summing up and misled the jury.

During the six week trial, QC James Price, for the Sunday Times, told the jury that virtually the entire Irish media had ``called Mr Reynolds a liar in language considerably fruitier than the Sunday Times with never a complaint from Mr Reynolds.''

``He is a man who has had his reputation in the Republic smashed to smithereens by repeated allegations in the Irish media of having deceived the Dail and his colleagues.''

The appeal is expected to last at least two weeks.

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