Sides fail to agree wording of orders in journalists' defamation case against Eoghan Harris

Aoife Moore of the Irish Examiner and Allison Morris of the Belfast Telegraph claim the Twitter accounts have posted defamatory statements about them
Sides fail to agree wording of orders in journalists' defamation case against Eoghan Harris

The former Sunday Independent columnist, Eoghan Harris, and Twitter International Company face the High Court defamation actions. File photo

Twitter and lawyers representing two journalists have been unable to agree on the wording of orders that would require the social media giant to disclose information about the holders of certain Twitter accounts, the High Court has heard.

Reporters Aoife Moore of the Irish Examiner and Allison Morris of the Belfast Telegraph claim the Twitter accounts in question have posted defamatory statements about them.

Arising out of those tweets they have brought High Court actions, including defamation proceedings against Twitter International Company and the former Sunday Independent columnist, Eoghan Harris.

In their action they seek damages, and an injunction preventing Twitter from publishing any further statements containing the same or similar allegedly defamatory words about the reporters.

Last May they applied to the High Court for what is known as a 'Norwich Pharmacal' order requiring Twitter to make disclosure of the identities of persons, who controlled, used, contributors, curators and owners of several named twitter accounts, including the Barabara J Pym account @barbarapym2.

Mr Harris, represented by Hugh McDowell Bl, has admitted to being the author of that account but denies the allegations that the posts are defamatory.

The reporters want Twitter to provide them with IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact details of persons associated with those particular accounts.

They also want Twitter to give the names and contact details of other twitter account holders who they claim republished or retweeted any of the allegedly defamatory material posted by the Barbara Pym and other allegedly linked accounts.

The application has been before to courts on a number of previous occasions, but had been adjourned to allow discussions between Twitter and the applicant's lawyers over a formula of words that would see the order granted, with Twitter neither objecting or consenting to.

When the matter came before the court on Friday, Mr Justice Senan Allen was told by Thomas Hogan SC for the reporters that it was not possible to reach an agreement over the wording of the orders with Twitter.

Arising out of that, counsel said that the court would now have to hear, and ultimately rule on his client's application for the 'Norwich Pharmacal' orders. Counsel said that the matter was urgent from his clients' perspectives.

Mr Justice Allen, noting that the parties had been in talks since May, fixed the hearing of the application to a date in October when the new legal term commences.

The judge also made directions that all the parties exchange their respective legal submissions and sworn statements in advance of the hearing date.

In addition to seeking orders from Twitter the reporters also seek orders requiring Mr Harris, with an address in Dun Laoghaire in South County Dublin, to identify the identities of the group of persons who contributed, curated or used the accounts in question.

The journalists claim that they have been the subject of defamatory tweets published by the accounts and aimed to bring these proceedings in order to vindicate their good names and professional reputations.

Mr Harris denies the claims.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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