Attempt to stop ‘RTÉ Investigates’ broadcast withdrawn

A High Court challenge aimed at preventing RTÉ from airing a report into the rented accommodation sector was yesterday withdrawn.

The action was brought by Green Effect Technology Ltd, trading as Global Academics, and its directors Jason Orr and Joshua Cantwell against RTÉ and journalist Barry O’Kelly regarding last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme.

The company had sought an injunction preventing RTÉ and Mr O’Kelly from broadcasting or publishing anything about the applicants, their business, their economic relations, and any references to their property until all investigations have been concluded by all the relevant authorities.

The application, which was opposed, was due to be heard before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan at the High Court yesterday. Shortly before the judge was set to view the programme, Pat O’Connell, for the plaintiffs, said that, after considering a sworn statement from Mr O’Kelly in reply to their applicant for an injunction, his clients were withdrawing their action.

Paul O’Higgins, for RTÉ and Mr O’Kelly, said his clients were entitled to their legal costs on the highest scale possible on grounds including that RTÉ had gone to great lengths to respond to the injunction application made on the eve of the broadcast.

Mr Justice Gilligan, striking out the proceedings, agreed that the public purse should not be put to any expense and awarded RTÉ its costs on the solicitor-client basis.

On Wednesday evening the judge granted the applicants permission to serve short notice of the proceedings on the respondents.

The injunction was sought on grounds the broadcast would completely undermine their rights, including their right to privacy and right to earn a living. They also claimed it would portray them as unquestionably guilty of certain offences in respect of a property it used as an office and previously used as temporary student accommodationin Dublin.

In a sworn statement, Mr Orr said the firm provides services to foreign students visiting Ireland such as information and orientation and language services. He said the company is not involved in the provision of medium term or long term accommodation. It claimed some students had stayed at the premises on a short term basis.

Last August, the company received a warning letter from Dublin City Council which said an unauthorised development had taken place. Following an inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade in September, the premises was vacated by October 11. In early October, the company was contacted by RTÉ saying it was compiling a report in the rented accommodation sector, and that there was an immediate danger to the welfare and safety of tenants.

RTÉ, Mr Orr said, alleged there had been multiple breaches of the fire safety regulations and building regulations at the premises.

The company had been engaging with the relevant authorities and claimed RTE’s intention to broadcast anything about Global Academics would usurp the relevant statutory processes.

RTÉ and Mr O’Kelly denied the claims and said there were no grounds for the court to grant the injunction.

RTÉ offered the plaintiffs a right of reply as far back as October 6. However, they failed to engage in any meaningful way with RTÉ, it was claimed.



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