Bertie 'dig-out' man told FF TD that ex-employee was SF sympathiser

The head of an engineering company told a Fianna Fáil TD over the phone that a man on whose behalf he was making representations about a redundancy was “a Sinn Féin f***er, sympathiser and troublesome employee,” a court heard today.

Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, President of the Circuit Court, told 44-year-old Barry English to pay former Irish soldier Liam Moloney €5,000 compensation for defamation of character relating to remarks English made on the telephone to TD Niall Collins.

Mr English was one of a number of Fianna Fáil supporters who gave former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern “a dig-out” at the time of his marriage breakdown.

Judge Groarke said Mr English, of Abbington, Malahide, Co Dublin, and CEO of Winthrop Engineering Ltd, did not intend to offend Mr Moloney.

He was angry “at this Fianna Fáil TD” who was making representations on behalf of somebody who, in his view, had been a troublesome employee.

Moloney (aged 63) of Ballyhoura Heights, Kilfinane, Co Limerick, told his counsel David O’Neill he had worked for years as an electrician for Winthrop Engineering, Turnpike Business Park, Dublin.

He had been made redundant in August 2008 and had taken issue with the company through the Labour Court which recommended he be paid redundancy. When he had not been paid, he had gone to Mr Collins TD.

He was stunned that Mr English had said he was a Sinn Féin "f***er", sympathiser and troublesome and had advised the TD to have nothing to do with him. He considered sympathiser to mean he supported the IRA.

Mr Collins said he was TD for Limerick and Mr Moloney had asked him to make representations about payment of the Labour Court recommendation to Mr English. He had written to him and later they had spoken on the phone.

“He was very aggressive and dismissive of my role in making representations as a public representative on behalf of Mr Moloney and questioned my right to do so,” he said.

“I would understand sympathiser to mean somebody who was sympathetic to the IRA and I would be very concerned about that. I reported the conversation to Mr Moloney,” he said.

Mr English said he was a majority shareholder and director in Winthrop Engineering which had offices in Cork and Limerick as well as Dublin.

“Times were tough in 2008 and many workers had been paid off. The country was going through horrendous trauma and politicians were not the most popular people at the time,” he said.

“Here was this TD down in Limerick trying to interfere with my business. My attitude was: ‘how dare you. You have no right to tell me what to do’.

“I gave him a piece of my mind. He hit a button with me that doesn’t often get hit.”

He said he did not agree he had called Mr Moloney a troublesome Sinn Féin f***er. He would consider someone going to a TD to write letters to be a “troublesome ex employee” and that was how he described Mr Moloney.

Mr English said he had spoken to Mr Collins in a state of anger. He had described Mr Moloney as a Sinn Féin supporter and a troublesome ex employee.

Judge Groarke said Mr English had “hit the roof”. He was angry and exceedingly annoyed and directed his anger at Mr Collins.

“We have an angry man and people who are angry will do things which in the ordinary way they would never dream of doing,” the judge said. “Looking at his attitude in the witness box it seems to me he is still angry.”

“I accept that the words “Sinn Féin f***er” were used and that the word “sympathiser” was used,” Judge Groarke said.

The use of the word sympathiser conveyed an interpretation that one was sympathetic to the commission of extremely serious crimes in pursuit of political ends.

The court had to have regard for the nature and gravity of the defamation and the fact the words had been spoken only to one individual albeit a person in some degree of authority.

Copyright Ray Managh

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