Hogan sues TV3 over Browne ‘slur’

Environment Minister Phil Hogan is suing TV3, claiming he was defamed after he was allegedly described by broadcaster Vincent Browne as a "bigoted racist".

Hogan sues TV3 over Browne ‘slur’

The defamation action is not likely to be heard until later in the year.

Mr Hogan claims he was defamed on Tonight with Vincent Browne on May 20, 2013, in an exchange between the broadcaster, Fine Gael TD, and now Children’s Minister, Charlie Flanagan.

It is alleged Mr Browne described Mr Hogan as being a “bigoted racist” arising out of representations made by Mr Hogan on behalf of a constituent in respect of the suitability of housing for a family, who are members of the Travelling community, in a vacant council property in Kilkenny.

Mr Hogan claims the remarks had meanings including that he was prejudiced towards Travellers, had sought to prevent the housing of members of the Travelling community, had breached the Incitement to Hatred Act, and was not suitable for his role as minister or a TD,

He says the allegedly defamatory remarks have damaged his reputation and caused him extreme stress. He is seeking damages and a correction order, and an order directing TV3 to remove the broadcast in question from its website.

TV3 denies the claims, on grounds including that Mr Browne’s statements consisted of an opinion honestly held by him. This opinion was based on factors including that Mr Hogan made a number of public statements, including ones he had contacted Kilkenny County Council over, it claims.

In a pre-trial application yesterday, Rossa Fanning, for Mr Hogan, asked the High Court for an order amending his original statement of claim.

The court heard that several matters needed to be clarified, including interactions between him and Kilkenny County Council. The amendments did not affect the central issues of the claim, Mr Fanning said.

Mr Hogan wanted it made clear he has “no issues” with members of the Travelling community. In his capacity as a public representative, he has made representations to provide housing for Travellers, the court heard.

Marcus Dowling, for TV3, opposed the bid, arguing that Mr Hogan, in seeking to amend his statement of claim, wanted to “gloss over” serious factual inaccuracies in his original statement of claim. He had not properly explained these inaccuracies, counsel added.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan ruled that Mr Hogan was entitled to amend his statement of claim and in due course can be cross-examined about any alleged inconsistencies.

The case will be listed for hearing before a judge and jury at a future date.

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