The good name and reputation of a former Miss World suing airline Ryanair for defamation is still being damaged, a court heard today.
Model Rosanna Davison, daughter of singer Chris de Burgh, claims a press release by the airline wrongly implied she was racist, xenophobic, jealous and narrow-minded.
A barrister for Ms Davison told the High Court that under Ireland’s libel laws her only options were to sue Ryanair or crawl under a rock.
“The damage is still being done,” said Declan Doyle SC, referring to the statement still on the airline’s website.
“The fact the defendant still hasn’t apologised is still out there.”
A jury of eight men and four women has retired to consider its verdict.
The case centres on a press release posted on Ryanair’s website on November 11, 2008, in response to remarks Miss Davison made the previous day in a newspaper.
The model had been asked by a journalist about what she thought of the lack of any Irish women in Ryanair’s 2009 charity calendar, which featured bikini-clad cabin crew.
Miss Davison said she was correctly quoted the next day as saying: “If I was (organising) it, I would have made sure that Irish women were involved because it’s an Irish charity and Irish fundraising.”
The following day the airline issued its press release which stated Ryanair “today hit back at comments made by Irish glamour model Rosanna Davison in relation to the absence of Irish cabin crew from Ryanair’s 2009 charity calendar which ’bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair’s international cabin crew’.”
Miss Davison, aged 27, of Cornelscourt, Dublin, claims the release defamed her in that, she alleges, it meant she was racist, xenophobic and jealous.
Ryanair denies defamation and maintains it said her comments bordered on racism and not that she was racist.
In his closing statement Martin Hayden, senior counsel for Ryanair, said less than 1,000 people in Ireland had viewed the press release – written by Stephen McNamara, its head of communications – on the Ryanair website.
He described the action as a storm in a tea cup.
“The complainant made a federal production of this,” he said.
He maintained the model and newspaper columnist was well-versed in how the media worked when she gave a journalist quotes and knew it had to be spicy.
“She wants publicity, they want quotes, her career depends on being well known,” he continued.
Mr Hayden described Ryanair as “no shrinking violent” and said if it thought Ms Davison was racist it would have said so.
However Mr Doyle argued Ryanair’s reaction to Miss Davison’s comments was "grossly disproportionate" and had damaged her reputation.
He said it was nonsense and defied logic and common sense how a statement saying someone’s comments bordered on racism did not imply she is racist.
Mr Doyle told jurors they should award damages to compensate her for the damage done by the “enormous bullying monster of a defendant called Ryanair”.
Dressed in knee-length black dress and black Christian Louboutin shoes, Miss Davison sat alone at the back of the packed courtroom during the closing speeches.
Crowned Miss World in 2003, she later completed an honours degree in Sociology and History of Art in University College Dublin and did a diploma in PR and Event Management.
Mr Justice Eamon de Valera told the jury they had to decide if the press release meant Miss Davison was racist, xenophobic, jealous and narrow-minded.
If so, they must decide if those comments were false and if she should be compensated, he added.