Former FF minister John O’Donoghue to sue over article in Kerry's Eye newspaper

Defamation proceedings are being brought by former Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue, against the Tralee-based Kerry's Eye newspaper over articles published in Oct 2018 alleging that the politician had been forced from political office because of lavish expenses.
Former FF minister John O’Donoghue to sue over article in Kerry's Eye newspaper
File image of former FF Minister, John O'Donoghue.

Defamation proceedings are being brought by former Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue, against the Tralee-based Kerry's Eye newspaper over articles published in Oct 2018 alleging that the politician had been forced from political office because of lavish expenses.

The Circuit Civil Court in Killarney heard that Mr O’Donoghue had suffered great shame and embarrassment because of the article — and that he wanted to defend his name. He is “vehemently” pursuing the matter, and had sent a solicitor's letter in Nov 2018, within three weeks of the article, the court heard.

Today’s proceedings centered on applications in relation to joining the paper's publishing company which it was claimed had only been highlighted to Mr O'Donoghue's legal team by solicitors for Kerry's Eye Ltd in March 2020.

Mr O’Donoghue is seeking an order to join Kenno Ltd, which the court was told is the publishing company of the Kerry’s Eye Ltd, both of the same address at Ashe Street, Tralee.

The proceedings touched on the time limits under law, the court was told. Section 38 of the Defamation Act 2009 on the limit on taking proceedings as well as the 1957 Act on the Statue of Limitations were handed into court by barrister Katie O'Connell for Mr O’Donoghue. Richard Liston, barrister for the newspaper, told the court that the applications were being "resisted".

Ms O’Connell said that the “former minister and politician”, John O’Donoghue, is taking proceedings over an article on Oct 18, 2018 in the Kerry's Eye newspaper entitled 'The Bull is Back'.

There were three articles within the one edition of the paper and they stated that Mr O’Donoghue was forced to resign political office over lavish expenses. The articles alleged that gifts to Mr O’Donoghue’s wife and staff were made out of public expenditure; that he had regularly attended horse races including to Australia and had stayed in a Paris hotel; and that he had spent €20,000 “at nine different race meetings internationally over the four years 2003-2007” and had engaged in private travel, at public expense, Ms O'Connell stated.

On Nov 8, 2018, Mr O’Donoghue’s solicitor, Denis J Linehan, wrote to the editor of Kerry’s Eye. On Nov 21 he received a detailed response from Padraig Kennelly on Kerry's Eye headed notepaper. Mr Kennelly's reply went into “significant detail” including how the reporter, who is still employed by the paper, made a number of attempts to contact Mr O’Donoghue, Ms O’Connell said.

Mr Kennelly asked that correspondence be sent to himself, the barrister added.

In March 2020, solicitors for Kerry’s Eye Ltd highlighted to Mr O’Donoghue’s legal team that Kenno Ltd is the publisher of the Kerry’s Eye newspaper, she said. Kerry’s Eye Ltd’s principal activity is the retail sale of books, newspapers and stationery, she said.

“The first time my solicitor became aware of Kenno Ltd was March 2020 and he immediately issued this motion,” Ms O’Connell said, of the application for an order to join Kenno Ltd in the proceedings.

“This was a great source of shame and embarrassment to him [John O'Donoghue of Garranearagh, Caherciveen] and he strongly wants to defend his name. This is not a trivial matter,” Ms O’Connell said.

Mr Kennelly of Kerry’s Eye Ltd is also the director of Kenno Ltd and both companies have the same address at Ashe Street Tralee, she said. The same barrister, Richard Liston, was representing both in court on Tuesday, she also said.

Mr Liston, on behalf of Kerry’s Eye and Kenno Ltd, referred in detail to case law. He also said that it is incumbent on the plaintiff “to ascertain who the publisher was” and to do so in time.

Judge Helen Boyle said she wished to consider affidavits as well as the law in the matter and has reserved her decision to Tuesday next.

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