Publican awarded €60,000 damages over poison pen letter
Victim John Lackey discovered identity of defamatory letter writer from signature on pub raffle card
Publican John Lackey was awarded €60,000 damages.
A publican has been awarded €60,000 damages by a High Court jury over a poison pen letter which he discovered, from a signature on a pub raffle card, had been written by a neighbour.
John Lackey (59), who owns a pub at Doughill, Curraroe, Co Roscommon, sued John Brehon for defamation over the anonymous letter which falsely claimed Mr Lackey was waiting for his bachelor uncle in Clare to die so he could get his land and money to spend on “wine, women and song”. The letter was written in November 2003 by Mr Brehon, a farmer and patron of his pub, Mr Lackey claimed.
In a defence lodged previously, Mr Brehon accepted the letter was defamatory but denied he had written or published it, the court heard.
The jury unanimously found Mr Brehon had written and published the letter and awarded €50,000 general damages and €10,000 aggravated damages.
Mr Lackey earlier told the court that when he visited his uncle he noticed the defamatory letter addressed to “Martin McNamara, bachelor farmer, Kilfenora, Co Clare”. Mr McNamara has since died.
Mr Lackey said he recognised Mr Brehon’s handwriting when Mr Brehon filled in a card for a raffle in his pub for a Christmas hamper.
Mr Lackey said he reported the matter to gardaí but was told Mr Brehon denied it.
The jury heard the letter stated Mr Lackey “goes down to you in Clare, Martin, because he wants your house, land and money”.
It said Mr Lackey “gets drunk in his pub in Roscommon and brags about getting all when you McNamaras are dead, he cannot wait to get you all in [the] cemetery”.
It went on: “John Lackey tells us all up here in Roscommon you have your land signed over to him and he says he will have all your money and house, all will be squandered, sold, and a mighty time of wine, women and song will follow, I swear to the Lord all this is true Martin”.
The letter also made a number of defamatory allegations against other members of Mr Lackey’s family, as well as against Diane Lynch who previously lived over John Lackey’s pub, it was claimed.
Handwriting specialist Elaine Quigley told the court yesterday she had no doubt the author of the defamatory letter was John Brehon.