Sinn Fein political manager brings defamation action against RTE

By Ann O'Loughlin

A defamation action by Sinn Fein political manager Nicky Kehoe against RTE is expected to begin tomorrow in the High Court.

He claims he was defamed in comments made by former Labour Party TD, Joe Costello, during a live "Saturday with Claire Byrne" radio programme on October 24, 2015.

He says Mr Costello falsely stated that he was a member of the Provisional IRA army council and in that role he attended meetings of Dublin City Council and directed how Sinn Fein councillors would vote.

Nicky Kehoe pictured at the Four Courts for the opening of a High Court action. Picture: Collins Courts

RTE denies he was defamed and says it is not liable for the matters he complains of.

A jury was empanelled today by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.

Before they were selected, all potential jurors were told by the judge that if they were members of Sinn Fein, or party activists, or were employed by or had connections with RTE or the Claire Byrne programme, they should not serve on the jury and should inform the judge of that.

Labour Party TD, Joe Costello

Giving a brief synopsis of the case earlier to the jury panel, the judge said Mr Kehoe was a political manager of Sinn Fein and a director of elections for the party in June 2014.

He was a well known and senior member of SF and had previously represented the party on the city council.

The judge said Mr Kehoe says he was defamed during a conversation on the radio programme in a conversation involving Mr Costello and current SF TD Eoin Ó'Broin which focused on Mr Kehoe's position in Sinn Fein vis-a-vis its elected city councillors.

In essence, the judge said, Mr Kehoe, who was not part of that radio debate, says he was "hugely defamed" by Mr Costello's comments that he was a IRA army council member and that he controlled "like a puppet master how Sinn Fein councillors voted".

RTE had not held up its hands, the judge said. It said the conversation took place but in circumstances where it was not liable for the matters Mr Kehoe complains over, he said.

It also did not accept that what was said was capable of bearing the defamatory meaning Mr Kehoe claims it did, but that was a matter for the jury, the judge said.

RTE also says Mr O'Broin, who was on the programme for Sinn Fein, was able to "give as good as he got and defended Nicky Kehoe". It was a public broadcast on a matter of public interest which enjoys protection in law, RTE also pleads.

After empanelling a jury of six men and six women, the judge told them they would begin hearing the case tomorrow.

Most Read in Ireland