Defamation case hears transcript of RTÃ Radio debate
Lawyers for a former Sinn FÃ©in councillor have told the High Court that comments by a Labour TD alleging he was a member of the IRA army council were false and suggested he was not a fit person to be involved in the democratic process.
Nicky Kehoe, who is now a political manager for the party, has taken the action for defamation against RTÃ over comments made during a radio programme on 24 October 2015.
The case concerns comments made on the Saturday with Claire Byrne programme by then Labour TD Joe Costello.
During the programme, Mr Costello alleged there was a parallel structure in place on Dublin City Council, which is the army council, that is influencing what Sinn FÃ©in does.
He said: "A former chief of staff of the IRA gives directions to Sinn FÃ©in councillors on how to vote."
He also said "all the little heads swivel around when a decision has to be made".
The programme also included Sinn FÃ©in TD Eoin Ã" Broin, who named Mr Kehoe as the person to whom Joe Costello was referring.
The jury heard a transcript of the debate during which Mr Ã" Broin repeatedly challenges Mr Costello about his remarks, describing them as outrageous and bizarre.
Mr Kehoe claims the broadcast damaged his personal and professional reputation by alleging he was a member of the IRA army council, an illegal organisation, and that he controlled the way in which Sinn FÃ©in councillors vote on Dublin City Council.
Senior counsel Thomas Hogan said apart from a watery clarification at the end of the programme, RTÃ had never apologised to Mr Keogh for the serious allegation made against him.
He told the jury it would hear evidence about the effect the broadcast had and the reaction from his family, his GAA club and the young Sinn FÃ©in councillors with whom he worked.
He also outlined details of Mr Kehoe 9;s previous convictions and time spent in prison for possession of firearms.
He said had gone down the wrong path in the past for his beliefs but was reformed after spending nine years in jail and had vowed to have no more to do with the republican movement after his release from prison in 1993.
Mr Hogan told the jury that RTÃ would not be standing over the allegation that his client was a member of the army council or using the defence of truth.
RTÃ denies the words used were defamatory.
The broadcaster will also rely on the defence of fair and reasonable publication as part of a live broadcast made in good faith on a subject in the public interest spoken in the context of a debate.
The station will also say that Mr Costello was challenged about the claims by the presenter, Ms Byrne, and that Mr Kehoe's party colleague was given an opportunity to deny the assertion.
It will also say it took all reasonable steps to ensure Mr Kehoe 39;s side was represented through Mr Ã" Broin.
Mr Hogan said Mr Kehoe had been convicted in 1974 and in 1983 for possession of firearms and had served nine years in jail on his second conviction.
When he got out of jail in 1992 his son, whom he had left as an eight-month-old was then aged ten, and he vowed to concentrate on his family and his GAA club and told anyone who was interested that he would not involve himself with the republican movement or the IRA.
He won a senior hurling medal in 1993.
He told the jury in many ways the way they decide this case could centre on whether or not people like Nicky Kehoe are entitled to a second chance to restore their reputation.
He said Mr Kehoe had been striving for 25 years to get away from that reputation.
He said he had gone down the wrong path for better or worse for what he believed in.
"He didn't sail that path. He was reformed by prison and that changed his life against the backdrop of a paradigm shift in the way in which peace was achieved in Northern Ireland which was ultimately not by force but through democracy".Source: Google News