Passenger loses €75,000 Irish Rail defamation case

A Dublin-based legal assistant, who claimed she had been intimidated, scared and bullied by an Irish Rail inspector who questioned her about an invalid train ticket, has lost a €75,000 defamation case against the company and ordered to pay its costs.

Nicola Dowd, a mother of two from The Avenue, Walshestown Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare, had alleged two inspectors on a power trip had shouted aggressively as they came at her on the Dublin-Newbridge train and defamed, embarrassed, intimidated and shamed her in front of a whole carriage.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, throwing out her claim, said he had a problem with Ms Dowd’s allegation that she felt scared, intimidated and bullied as he did not see her as a person who would be very easily scared, intimidated or bullied. Instead he found her to be very strong in her views and opinions.

Judge Groarke told barrister Jeri Ward, counsel for Irish Rail, that he could not see that what had been said to Ms Dowd on the train by the inspectors had been defamatory. They had made a simple statement of fact that indeed she had travelled in the month of January 2018 on an invalid ticket.

Ms Ward, who appeared with CIÉ solicitor Orlagh Ryan, told the court that on January 22 and 23, 2018, Ms Dowd had travelled from Dublin to Newbridge on a short hop ticket that entitled her to travel from Dublin only to Sallins. When Inspector Gary Dunne had boarded the train beyond Sallins, at the Celbridge-Hazelhatch stop, he had told her she had an invalid ticket.

Ms Ward reminded Ms Dowd in cross-examination that in an email she had sent to Irish Rail’s customer care department she described Mr Dunne as “a nasty, ignorant, rude, abusive and aggressive individual who has no business working on public transport” and complained that he had “absolutely no social skills and no skills in dealing with situations tactfully and discreetly”. 

Judge Groarke said there was an issue of credibility in the case between Ms Dowd and Mr Dunne as to what had been said on the train and he was resolving that issue against Ms Dowd for the reason that on January 29 she had again been addressed by an inspector on the same train when she did not have a valid ticket.

He said she had offered the explanation that she was entitled to travel on a monthly ticket she had bought for February, which did not become valid until three days later, “and I believe that she knew perfectly well that wasn’t the case”. He said she had been travelling on the monthly February ticket on January 29 “knowing full well she did not have a valid ticket”.

Regarding what Mr Dunne allegedly stated on the train, the court was resolving that issue in his favour.

The court heard that the price of a monthly return ticket between Dublin and Newbridge was €237 while the price of the monthly short hop return ticket between Dublin and Sallins was only €154.

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