96FM apologises to minister for defamation

“The apology says it all,” said minister of state Kathleen Lynch last night after she settled a defamation action against Cork’s 96FM.

The radio station confirmed yesterday that it has apologised to the Labour minister for on-air comments almost two years ago following the death of Kerry teenager Donal Walsh. The station also agreed to pay undisclosed damages after accepting that comments made on air by its former presenter, Neil Prendeville, which suggested Ms Lynch only commented on Donal’s death to generate publicity for herself, were wrong and untrue.

Ms Lynch welcomed the settlement, but said she would not comment further on its details.

“The apology says it all,” she said.

Donal, the inspirational anti-suicide campaigner, died on May 12, 2013, aged just 16, after a long battle with cancer.

The Cork North Central TD launched High Court proceedings against Cork’s 96FM following a broadcast of the Neil Prendeville Show on May 13, 2013.

Mr Prendeville and his production team have since left the radio station for rival broadcasters.

It had been claimed on air during that day’s broadcast that Ms Lynch, who has responsibility for mental health, had commented publicly on Donal’s death for the purpose of garnering publicity for herself.

In settling the action, the station acknowledged this statement was wrong and untrue.

It accepted that Ms Lynch had worked with the Kerry teenager and his family in her official capacity as minister for state for mental health to help bring about suicide awareness and prevention.

The station confirmed that undisclosed damages are being paid to Ms Lynch and that an apology has been broadcast.

Donal shot to national attention months before his death when he spoke openly on The Saturday Night Show about his condition and pleaded with teenagers not to take their own lives.

“I just didn’t want them to see suicide as a solution to any of life’s problems,” he said.

That television appearance, which touched the nation, encouraged Ms Lynch to approach Donal and his family to record a special online anti-suicide video message aimed at teenagers. They agreed, knowing that it would be broadcast after his death.

The ‘LiveLife’ video, which was recorded at Donal’s home, was produced by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention with the support of his family.

In the video , Donal spoke of how he would talk to his parents or friends when he was feeling low, and encouraged others to do the same.

On the day Donal’s death was announced, Ms Lynch paid tribute to him, describing him as an “extraordinary” person.

“For someone that young to be so articulate, to be so mature, and even when he was having huge difficulties, to reach out to others — I think that is what I found extraordinary about him,” she said.

She also spoke about the video and said everyone involved was very conscious that it was going to be finished after his death.


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