Irish Times journalist Kitty Holland launches defamation action against John Waters

Irish Times Journalist Kitty Holland Launches Defamation Action Against John Waters
The award-winning journalist is suing her former colleague, John Waters (pictured) for damages of up to €75,000 for defamation of character. Photo: Collins
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Ray Managh

Award-winning Irish Times journalist Kitty Holland is suing former colleague John Waters for damages of up to €75,000 for defamation of character.

Ms Holland (53), a reporter for almost 30 years, of Ranelagh, Dublin, told Judge John O’Connor on Wednesday that an exclusive story she broke about the tragic death of Savita Halappanaver in University Hospital Galway almost 12 years ago had been vetted by editors and lawyers for three days.


She alleges that Waters had, without specifically naming her, made a claim in an address to a political party conference that she had lied in her report.

In the Circuit Civil Court, Andrew Walker SC, counsel for Holland, told the judge that "the sting of the libel" was very simply a wrong observation by Waters that Holland was not only a "bare faced liar", but a journalist who started the lie and continued promulgating lies for money and awards.

Ms Holland said lawyers and editors had gone through practically every syllable of her report over the three days before publishing it in The Irish Times.

She had been very enthusiastic about her scoop, but was not under any pressure, despite knowing that the Irish Independent’s Fionnan Sheahan had word of it and was "hot on her heels", the court heard.


Mr Waters, of Sandycove, Dublin, described in court by his counsel Feargal Kavanagh SC as a strident pro-lifer in the lead up to the 2018 referendum on abortion, has denied that he had defamed Holland or called her a liar.

Outlining the case, Mr Walker, who appeared with barrister Shane English and Lavelle Partners Solicitors, said Mr Waters, in a recorded address at a meeting of Renua, had referred to Ms Holland as a liar.

He added the speech had been published on the internet.


Ms Holland claims his remarks meant she was a dishonest reporter, was not fit to be a journalist and was wholly inaccurate in her journalism, seriously injuring her reputation.


She told the court that after having received a tip-off about Ms Halappanavar’s untimely death, she had thoroughly investigated the matter.

Mr Kavanagh, who appeared with barristers Greg Murphy and Conor Rubaclava and Brendan Maloney Solicitor, cross-examined Ms Holland for several hours on the veracity of her report which appeared in The Irish Times on November 14th, 2012, under the headline: Woman ‘denied a termination’ dies in hospital.

Ms Holland said she had never lied in any report she had written over more than 25 years as a journalist.

She added that she felt her story had come to world-wide prominence because of "the story itself" and the fact Ms Halappanavar, who was only 34 at the time of her death, had been refused a termination because of a foetal heartbeat being still present and because she had been told "this is a Catholic country".

Ms Holland was still under cross-examination when the suggested four-day hearing was adjourned on Wednesday.

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