Former TD allowed to sue 'persons unknown' for allegedly defamatory social media posts

Former TD allowed to sue 'persons unknown' for allegedly defamatory social media posts

Frank O’Rourke claims that members of the public told him that they had seen "horrible stuff" about him on social media and that his political supporters received "negative feedback on the doorsteps of North Kildare" following the publication of the comments.

Former Fianna Fáil TD Frank O’Rourke has been granted permission by the High Court to add 'persons unknown' to defamation proceedings he has brought over social media posts made in the run-up to last year's general election.

Mr O'Rourke has obtained orders in separate actions against Twitter International Company and Facebook Ireland Ltd as he tries to identify the posters so he can sue them for defamation.

Declan Doyle SC for Mr O Rourke told Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds today that his client is still trying to identify the person who posted the alleged defamatory post on a Facebook page.

Counsel said Mr O'Rourke needs to formally join the unknown individual or individuals involved before the statutory 12-month-limitation runs out early next month.

Mr Doyle, with Jennifer Goode Bl, said despite best efforts, and information provided by Facebook, his client does not know if the poster of the material on a Facebook group is a man, woman or a group of persons.

While it was an unusual application, counsel said if a 'person unknown' was joined to the action his client has some chance of being able to sue them for defamation.

However, with the deadline approaching if the court was not to allow him formally join the as of now 'person unknown' to the action would mean Mr O'Rourke would not be able to sue them.

Counsel added that if and when the identity was obtained the title of the proceedings would be amended to include the alleged defamer's name.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds said that the justice of the matter favoured joining the person unknown to the proceedings.

Ms Justice Reynolds also praised Ms Goode's "very concise" legal submission which the judge said aided the court, in what was an unusual application, in arriving at its decision.

Facebook, represented by Rossa Fanning SC, said it had no objections to the application to join the person unknown.

Mr O'Rourke claims that wholly untrue statements posted about him on social media last February were designed "to cause maximum professional damage to me" in the 2020 General Election, at a time when he was going through "a difficult marriage breakdown".

He claims that members of the public told him that they had seen "horrible stuff" about him on social media and that his political supporters received "negative feedback on the doorsteps of North Kildare" following the publication of the comments.

He also alleges that untrue posts were made on Facebook pages on pages associated with the Celbridge area about his family life and his personal financial matters which were designed to show that he was unfit to be a TD.

He further claims that a tweet that was put out shortly before the election which called on people not to vote for him, also contained untrue and defamatory statements about his personal life.

Mr O'Rourke of Dublin Road, Celbridge, was elected as TD for North Kildare in 2016. In February's election he lost his seat after finishing fifth in the four-seater constituency.

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