Judge urged to step aside over ‘bias’

A High Court judge who, be- fore being appointed to the bench wrote a magazine ar- ticle uerying the source of funding of Libertas — the lobby group founded by busi-nessman Declan Ganley — has been asked not to deal with any pre-trial matters in Mr Ganley’s defamation ac-tion against RTÉ.

Mr Ganley says a Novem- ber 2008 RTÉ Prime Time programme defamed him in using words or innuendo which, he alleges, meant he had links to organised crime; had falsely claimed to be a paid adviser to the Latvian government; was somehow involved in the death of a man with whom he had a close business relationship; caused a fund to lose the life savings of thousands of Al- banian pensioners’ and was covertly working for the US Central Intelligence Agency and/or “an ill-defined group known as neocons”.

RTÉ denies defamation or that the words complained of meant what Mr Ganley alleges. The broadcaster has also pleaded truth or justifi-cation and that the “sting” of the words, taken as a whole, was that Mr Ganley had a endency to make false or exaggerated claims in respect of business or other matters.

The defamation case was initiated in 2012 and a trial date has yet to be set.

A number of pre-trial applications have been brought, including by Mr Ganley to have aspects of RTÉ’s defence struck out, including that Mr Ganley had a tendency to make false or exaggerated claims in business matters, denies.

RTÉ has also applied to cross-examine Mr Ganley about issues arising from documents discovered for the case.

Yesterday, Declan Doyle, counsel for Mr Ganley, told Mr Justice MacEochaidh, who manages the list of High Court jury cases, these were “critical” pre-trial appli- cations which could mpact on conduct of the case.

Mr Ganley believed the judge should not deal with any of these matters arising from an article written by him, before being appointed a judge, and published in Village magazine on November 26 2008, counsel said.

The article referred to the ‘Vote No’ anti-Lisbon Treaty campaign run by Libertas in 2008, described that Vote No campaign as “brilliant” but based on “false” claims, raised issues about how Lib-ertas was funded, and pro-posed to the editor of Village that there should be a reward scheme aimed at discovering the source of Libertas’ funding, counsel said.

Because the 2008 article expressed a view that Libertas ran a campaign based on false claims, and supported a “campaign” to discover the source of the funding of Libertas, Mr Ganley did not con- sider it appropriate for the judge to deal with his case, Carl Rooney, a partner in Johnsons, solicitors for Mr Ganley, said in a sworn state- ment read to the court.

Mr Doyle said it is appro- priate for a judge to recuse themselves when there is evidence of objective bias. 

RTÉ, represented by Luán Ó Braonáin, adopted a neu- tral position on the recusal application.

The judge will give decision on a later date.


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