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RTE's Nob Nation sued by hotelier over brothel 'joke'

A GUESTHOUSE owner is suing RTE for defamation over a Nob Nation broadcast in which he claims his premises was described as a brothel.

Vincent O'Toole (84), owner of the Maryland House, formerly the Maryland Hotel, of the Mall, in Waterford, took a successful libel action against the Sunday World newspaper in 2007 over a similar claim, the High Court heard yesterday.

Mr O'Toole, a former shipsmaster and racehorse breeder, who was described as a "leading light" in the Waterford community, is suing over the Nob Nation episode on the Gerry Ryan Show on 2fm 18 months later in August 2008.

His lawyer told the court yesterday, on the opening day of his libel action before a judge and jury, that Mr O'Toole was extremely distressed and deeply frustrated by the broadcast.

Even as recently as last week, he said, a tourist turned up at his guesthouse, expecting that he was arriving at a brothel.

He said Mr O'Toole and his wife had been abused and had had to call gardai on occasions.

John Gordon, for Mr O'Toole, said RTE had published programme standards and guidelines in June 2008 but were in complete dereliction of those standards when they broadcast the sketch.







Vulgar

He said the piece was embarrassingly vulgar and obnoxious and untrue, as it referred to Mr O'Toole's premises and the defamation was made worse by the fact that RTE had left the podcast on their website until March 2010. It was still available on YouTube, counsel said.

Mr Gordon said RTE had let the "genie out of the bottle" and had not given Mr O'Toole any assistance to get the broadcast off the internet, and that the original broadcast was heard by more than 200,000 people.

Before the sketch was played to the jury, Mr Gordon said they would probably find themselves wincing because it was the "most vulgar type of broadcast imaginable".

The sketch featured 'Kevin My-Arse' giving a guide to Waterford slang. And it stated: "The Maryland is a byword in Waterford for prostitution, although the original establishment has ceased trading. If you're going down there, beware of the shams... beware of undesirables."

Mr Gordon said Mr O'Toole had spent several years fighting for the reputation of his guesthouse against the Sunday World. Eighteen months after a conclusion to those proceedings, RTE graphically reasserted that the premises was a brothel in an extraordinarily coarse broadcast, counsel said. At the end of the piece, Gerry Ryan encouraged listeners to listen "again and again and again" to the Oliver Callan sketch on their computers.

Mr Gordon said Mr O'Toole was entitled to be compensated appropriately for this never ending libel. The court was told RTE had apologised for any distress caused in a letter sent to Mr O'Toole's solicitors.

In a later letter, RTE said the piece was not defamatory.

In its defence, RTE admitted the words were defamatory of Mr O'Toole but said the broadcast had caused him limited emotional damage and limited damage to his reputation.

It said the damage was limited by the fleeting nature of the reference in the broadcast, the generally jocose tone and it also claimed that a search of Vincent O'Toole and the Maryland on Google would first bring up the libel case against the Sunday World which he won.

The hearing continues.

hnews@herald.ie


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