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RTE admits liability in ‘Nob Nation’ libel case

RTE has admitted liability in a defamation case brought to court by the owner of Waterford guesthouse Maryland House over a sketch on the station’s "Nob Nation".

The jury has retired to decide what costs will be awarded to the owner – Mr Vincent O’Toole (84).

Earlier this week impressionist Oliver Callan told the court he had never heard of the house when he wrote a sketch for RTE's 'Nob Nation' which is at the centre of a libel action.

The 'Nob Nation' sketch featured "Kevin My-arse" - meant to be newspaper columnist Kevin Myers - giving a 'Linguaphone' guide to Waterford slang.

"The Maryland is a byword in Waterford for prostitution although the original establishment from whence the term is derived has ceased business," it said.

Mr Callan told the court he believed Maryland was a district of Waterford that was well-known for prostitution but he had never heard it was a guesthouse or hotel in the city.

But it is alleged that the words suggested Mr O’Toole, was a brothel-keeper, that his home was the haunt of undesirables, and that he was or is involved in racketeering.

The court heard earlier this week that both Mr Callan and RTE are sorry but the broadcaster denied Mr O'Toole had been brought into public scandal, odium or contempt.

Mr O'Toole previously successfully sued the 'Sunday World' over a similar claim and was awarded €50,000 in damages.

Earlier this week, Mr Callan told the court he was a former journalist who became a comedian in 2006 and had since written and performed the 'Nob Nation' sketches.

The sketch at issue in this case was one of a number he did on local slang in different counties and this one came ahead of Waterford playing in the All-Ireland hurling final against Kilkenny.

He had never heard of Mr O'Toole or the Maryland House and while he did not believe he was careless in his work over five years on 'Nob Nation', he agreed with RTE's counsel, Paul O'Higgins, that the reference to "establishment" in the broadcast was careless.

Mr Callan told John Gordon, counsel for Mr O'Toole, that he did not know about the 'Sunday World' case when he wrote the sketch.