Rabbitte: Nothing to do with RTE settlement in garda libel action

Rabbitte: Nothing to do with RTE settlement in garda libel action

The Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte says he had "no hand in determining" how RTE defended or settled a libel action last week.

There were rowdy scenes in the Seanad yesterday after a Fianna Fáil Senator claimed RTE had settled the case on the same day that Mr Rabbitte met the board of the broadcaster on another matter last week.

The agreement was reported to have cost the broadcaster €100,000.

Mr Rabbitte was listed as a witness in the case taken by a former detective sergeant, who claimed he had been libelled during a discussion in 2006 by the then leader of the Labour Party, who was on radio to discuss the findings of the Morris report into Garda corruption in Donegal.

He is understood to have made comments about detectives in the Bridewell Garda Station in Dublin.

The discussion took place one week after the leaking of the Birmingham report into the Dean Lyons affair in which the Dublin man was wrongfully charged with the murder of two psychiatric patients in Dublin’s Grangegorman Hospital in 1997.

The case against RTÉ was being taken by retired detective sergeant Alan Bailey who served in the Bridewell Garda Station for more than 30 years.

He was one of three gardaí who had expressed misgivings prior to Dean Lyons being charged and was fully exonerated by the report.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore would not comment this week on whether Mr Rabbitte should apologise to RTÉ licence-fee payers after the broadcaster reached the settlement out of court.

Fianna Fáil Senator Terry Leyden claimed in the Seanad yesterday that Minister Rabbitte should have been liable for the defamation payment, and not RTE.

In a very unusual move, Pat Rabbitte was allowed make a personal statement in the Seanad this evening, and to acknowledge what he had said about Garda handling of the case was wrong.

"I fully accept that the incident room manager, Det garda Alan Bailey, who was the plaintiff in the action against RTE, not only experienced reservations, but expressed them at the time," he said.

Additional reporting from the Irish Examiner.

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