Politician’s case against RTÉ is inexpressible and should be struck, court said
RTÉ has asked the High Court to strike out a claim for damages brought against it by Labor politician Joe Costello on the grounds that it is doomed to fail.
The veteran politician’s action, which is against the national broadcaster as well as the state, stems from RTÉ’s defense of a libel action brought against it by Sinn Féin activist Nicky Kehoe over comments made Saturday with Claire Byrne aired on the radio in October 2015.
In 2018, Mr. Kehoe, who claimed to have been defamed on the show, received € 3,500 against RTÉ.
A High Court jury awarded a global award of € 10,000 for the defamatory comment made by Mr. Costello on the show.
In its defense against Mr. Kehoe’s action, RTÉ argued, under the provisions of the Civil Liability Act 1961, that Mr. Costello was a concurrent offender and was liable for the libel.
The jury found the show to be defamatory because it meant that Mr. Kehoe was not a suitable person to be involved in the democratic process.
The jury also found that the national broadcaster was 35 percent responsible for the defamation while Mr. Costello, former TD and minister, was 65 percent responsible.
However, as Mr Kehoe did not prosecute Mr Costello, current Dublin City Councilor, no judgment has been issued against him.
Mr Costello sued both RTÉ, who he said never gave him proper notice of the libel proceeding, and Ireland and the Attorney General seeking damages.
He is also asking for statements that he has been denied constitutional justice, due process, given that he has been blamed for defamation without his having had a chance to defend himself.
He also asks for declarations that an article of the 1961 Civil Liability Act is unconstitutional and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
He claims that, in his defense, RTÉ failed in its obligations to him under the 2009 Broadcasting Act to be fair, objective, impartial, particularly in matters of public controversy.
He also claims that as a guest on RTÉ, he agreed to justify and represent to Mr. Costello that he would not be exposed to the stigma that would damage his political career and his reputation.
RTÉ and state defendants deny all claims.
In a pre-trial motion before Judge Tony O’Connor RTÉ, represented by Cian Ferreter and Mark Dunne SC, wants the court to quash the charges against him.
Mr Ferriter told the court that Mr Costello’s action against RTÉ was inexpressible, vague, doomed to failure and should be struck by the court.
The lawyer said Mr. Costello is seeking damages from RTÉ after RTÉ was sued for comments on one of its programs made by Mr. Costello.
Mr. Costello, the lawyer added, did not have to pay Mr. Kehoe a dime. RTÉ, the lawyer said, had the full right to defend himself.
Any question relating to the constitutionality of the 1961 law was outside RTÉ’s jurisdiction, the lawyer added.
Any suggestion by Mr. Costello that RTÉ had the type of contractual obligations claimed is rejected.
Mr Costello, he said, was offered as a guest on the show by the then-FG / Labor government, following a request from RTÉ for a government official.
This was not the case as Mr Costello was personally questioned about the show, and the Broadcasting Act 2009 deals with issues regarding the shows, not how court proceedings are defended, said the ‘lawyer.
In response, Conor Power SC, on behalf of attorney Padraig Ferry for Mr Costello, accepted that the case might be ‘new’ but rejected any suggestion that the case had no hope of success and was doomed. to failure.
The lawyer said that although Mr. Costello had nothing to pay in terms of compensation to Mr. Kehoe or legal costs to the parties, his reputation had been affected by the jury’s finding.
The lawyer said he had not had the opportunity by RTÉ to be involved in the case, nor to contribute to the 2018 libel action, which received a lot of media attention.
Had he been called as a witness or implicated, the attorney said Mr. Costello, who in fact never named Mr. Kehoe on the show, would have had a contribution to make.
Mr. Costello, the lawyer added, had been a guest on the show by RTÉ and had been doing radio interviews for about 50 years, and some issues ensued.
His client has not been invited back to RTÉ since the broadcast at the center of the defamation action, said the lawyer.
RTÉ, the lawyer said, had a clear financial goal in handling the defense he led in the libel action, as that ultimately meant he would postpone or reduce any sentence against him.
The hearing of the preliminary motion continues next week.