Publican loses case over ‘nazi tactics’ claim

A publican who claimed he was defamed by nazi references made by another publican at a vintners’ AGM has lost his case.

John O’Connor, publican at An Spailpín Fánach on South Main St, Cork City, claimed he was defamed by remarks by Paddy O’Reilly, the publican at Henchy’s, St Luke’s.

It all stemmed from an AGM of the Cork Vintners’ Federation at Mitchelstown, Co Cork, to elect a new chairman on Feb 16, 2011.

The meeting had to be abandoned after allegations that busloads of non-vintners had been brought to the meeting in support of a particular candidate.

Five days later, at a meeting of council members at Oriel House, Ballincollig, Co Cork, it was claimed Mr O’Reilly made defamatory remarks about Mr O’Connor.

Mr O’Reilly said at that meeting that what happened in Mitchelstown represented fascist-style tactics to take over the meeting and corrupt the democratic process and that those responsible should resign. Mr O’Reilly said he did not address his comments to Mr O’Connor directly.

The plaintiff’s barrister, Pearse Sreenan, said the comments about fascism and nazism had been directed at the plaintiff and were defamatory.

James Duggan, barrister for the defendant, said the words used were not defamatory.

“They were used on an occasion of qualified privilege. It was all in-house,” said Mr Duggan.

The then chairwoman, Catherine Cahill, recalled that Mr O’Reilly said: “What happened in Mitchelstown was tantamount to fascism, nazi tactics, bringing in stormtroopers.”

Ms Cahill said Mr O’Reilly did not say the words directly to Mr O’Connor but addressed them through the chair.

“Paddy O’Reilly always says ‘through the chair’ to the point where sometimes it is annoying,” she said.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “This is something of an unfortunate situation where members of one organisation have a public falling out where various witnesses give different accounts based on their recollection.

“I am not satisfied that any personal abuse was directed at John O’Connor. All members had an interest in hearing why the previous AGM had been disrupted and abandoned.

“Accordingly, I do not find there has been any malice or defamation. I dismiss the case. I am not going to make any order in relation to costs. These were members of the one association.”


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