Monday 21 January 2019

Singer sues historian Diarmuid Ferriter over alcoholic book cover photo

Gordon Deegan

A TRAD singer is suing renowned historian Diarmaid Ferriter, claiming that the cover of the academic's book depicts the performer as an alcoholic.

Yesterday, a judge dismissed Professor Ferriter's application to strike out proceedings being brought by singer Tim Lyons.

Mr Lyons, of Athenry, Co Galway, claims that a photo depicts him as an alcoholic. It shows him with two pints of stout in front of him on the cover of 'A Nation of Extremes -- The Pioneers in Twentieth Century Ireland'.

Cork-born Mr Lyons is also suing the Dublin-based publisher of the book, Irish Academic Press.

Explaining the background yesterday, counsel for Prof Ferriter, Lorcan Connolly, said: "Judge, it is a somewhat unusual case."

He said that the book's front cover photo showed Mr Lyons with his elbow on a bar with two pints of stout.

Mr Connolly said that Mr Lyons believed that the photo of him "conveys that he is an alcoholic; that he drinks alcohol to excess; is representative of Irish drink culture which is damaging to Irish society and that Mr Lyons is part of a disreputable part of Irish society".

Mr Connolly said that it was Mr Lyons' claim that "it is clear to the reasonable observer of the book cover that the two photos are juxtaposed in order to illustrate two alleged extremes relative to the consumption of alcohol in Ireland".

Ennis Circuit Court heard that Mr Lyons claims observers would believe he permitted the publication of the photograph.

Judge Gerald Keyes was told that Mr Lyons further claims that the continuing publication of the photograph meant Mr Lyons' reputation was being affected.

Prof Ferriter was seeking an order striking out the proceedings against him.


Mr Connolly read out an affidavit from Prof Ferriter, which said: "I had no input into the design, layout and assembly of the book cover.

"Further, I had no input into the selection of the photo that is subject matter of the complaint in these proceedings."

Prof Ferriter contended that "I did not publish anything -- defamatory or otherwise -- of the plaintiff (Mr Lyons)".

The historian, a regular on RTE, said that Irish Academic Press was the publisher of the book and any liability can only rest with the publishers.

Prof Ferriter argued that "it would be unjust to make me defend the proceedings and incur costs in circumstances where I can have no liability".

After hearing Mr Connolly's submission, Judge Keyes said: "It's his book isn't it? And it's published with a photo depicting the plaintiff as a drunk -- or that is the allegation.

"Leaving aside whether it is defamatory or that it shows the plaintiff to be a drunk, your client is still in control of what is on the cover of the book," Judge Keyes added.

Mr Connolly said that Prof Ferriter would have the defence of 'innocent publication' under the Defamation Act due to the circumstances.

Judge Keyes said: "What has to be decided is if the author didn't have any input into the cover, should he have had an input in light of the nature of the book he was writing."

Judge Keyes told Mr Connolly: "Surely, your client would have seen what the cover was going to be before it was published."

"In order to establish if this is an 'innocent publication' we are going to have to have a full hearing on it."

Judge Keyes said that he was making no ruling on the merits of the case.

Counsel for Mr Lyons, Peter Clein, said that the relief of 'innocent publication' is not available to Prof Ferriter in this case as he is the author of the book.

Neither Prof Ferriter nor Mr Lyons were in court yesterday.

Irish Independent

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