Farmer sues neighbour over slander

 

A CO LIMERICK landowner has brought High Court proceedings suing his neighbour, the Earl of Harrington, for slander over alleged claims of embezzling money from the Limerick Harriers’ Hunt.

John O’Gorman (67), a farmer, from Doneen, Patrickswell, has claimed he was slandered by William Harrington, the Earl of Harrington, Ballingarry, Co Limerick, in 2004.

He claims Mr Harrington told him and other persons involved in the hunting fraternity in Co Limerick: “John O’Gorman has embezzled £2,000 from the Limerick Harriers’ Hunt.”

In his action, Mr O’Gorman says the statement by Mr Harrington is false and he is seeking damages over alleged harm to his his reputation, integrity and credibility.

Mr Harrington denies that he made the alleged statement.

He also pleads, if the words were uttered, they were true in substance and in fact because, he claims, Mr O’Gorman had agreed some years ago to have hounds belonging to the Limerick Harriers fed for £2,000 and subcontracted the job to another person for £1,000 without returning the remaining £1,000 to the Harriers’ hunt.

Opening the action yesterday before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and a jury, Michael McMahon SC, for Mr O’Gorman, said this dispute involved two people who knew each other for some time and arose from a row over the hunting of lands in Co Limerick between the Co Limerick Hunt (the “Foxhounds”) and the Limerick Harriers’ Hunt.

Due to land development, the Harriers came under pressure to find new territory to hunt, counsel said.

As a result of an amalgamation with a smaller hunt, the Farmers’ Hunt, which had split from the Foxhounds but continued to use the same land, the Harriers began to hunt the same land as the Foxhounds and would do so twice a week.

Despite negotiations, the Foxhounds were unhappy with this and in 2003 decided to take legal action against the Harriers, the jury heard. Mr O’Gorman, a Harriers committee member, was in favour of the case although he was one of a number of people who over the years hunted with both the Foxhounds and the Harriers. While Mr Harrington had voted in favour of the litigation, he subsequently changed his mind.

In November 2004, Mr O’Gorman received a telephone call from Mr Harrington about the case, counsel said. Mr O’Gorman was claiming that, during this conversation, Mr Harrington had said, if the litigation went ahead, Mr Harrington would give evidence that Mr O’Gorman had embezzled £2,000 from the Harriers’ hunt. His client further claimed those words were said to other persons in hunting circles in Co Limerick with the deliberate intention of spreading a rumour.

Mr O’Gorman had told the Foxhounds’ solicitor, William Leahy, about the rumours and Mr Leahy later met Mr Harrington and took notes at that meeting.

Counsel said that Mr Leahy noted Mr Harrington had said he had spoken to a person involved in the Harriers, that Mr Harrington also said he accepted there was no truth to the allegation about Mr O’Gorman which he said he heard from another person, that he owed him “a big apology” and was prepared to make a public apology if so required.

The case continues today.