Columnist stands over criticism of new father

Journalist Brenda Power stands by a column in which she criticised the “appalling” behaviour of a man who sued over the interruption of his filming at the birth of his first child, the High Court heard yesterday.

Ms Power said that when midwife Iris Halbach asked John McCauley to put down his camera and stop filming after his daughter was born in Mount Carmel Hospital, Dublin, in Sept 2006, that should have been the end of the matter.

Ms Halbach asked Mr McCauley to stop filming because she had only minutes to clear to baby Simone’s lungs of mucus and get her breathing, she said.

“Most people would have done what they were asked,” said Ms Power. “Had she, the midwife, not done so, he might have had real reason to sue the hospital.”

Mr McCauley has taken defamation action against Ms Power and the Sunday Times over the column in the paper in Mar 2009.

The column followed the dismissal of Mr McCauley’s court action in 2009 against Ms Halbach and the hospital over what Mr McCauley said was Ms Halbach’s unreasonable behaviour in insisting he stop filming.

Ms Power, under cross-examination yesterday by Colm Smyth SC, for Mr McCauley, said Mr McCauley should have listened to what Ms Halbach said “and gone home and written her a letter of apology not a solicitor’s letter”.

Ms Power did not speak to Ms Halbach before she wrote the article but afterward exchanged emails in which Ms Halbach “agreed with everything I had said”. Put to her by Mr Smyth that while she was entitled to make comments but not defame Mr McCauley, Ms Power said she did not defame him and the person who damaged him most was “Mr McCauley himself”.

Asked by her own counsel, Mark Harty, in a reference in her article about midwives working too hard in a task too important “to concern themselves with tiptoeing around the sensitivities of a father with a lawyer on speed-dial”, Ms Power said if Mr McCauley’s action had succeeded, it would have meant the medical profession would have to consult with the families of patients as to what was an emergency.

Mr McCauley did appear to have a lawyer on speed-dial because he had sued the midwife, three newspaper columnists, and an air hostess who refused to serve him drink on a plane, she said.

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