Former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey has secured damages, believed to be some €250,000, and an apology from the Garda Commissioner and his legal costs under a settlement of his action over two newspaper articles concerning a criminal investigation.
The damages and most of the legal costs will be paid by the Garda Commissioner and State. A €75,000 contribution to the costs will be made by Independent Newspapers.
Mr Carey sued the Commissioner, State and publisher over articles published in the Irish Independent on November 11th and 12th, 2015, which reported that a Garda inquiry was taking place into allegations of child sexual abuse made by a number of complainants against a former government minister.
Mr Carey was a TD from 1997 until he lost his seat in 2011 and served as a minister from 2010. When the articles were published in 2015, he was Fianna Fáil’s national director of elections and was involved in some charitable and not for profit organisations.
In his action, Mr Carey claimed it was evident from the detail relating to the investigation set out in the articles that the sources referred to could only be from An Garda Síochána. He claimed that although the former government minister was not named, he was identifiable from the entirety of the articles as the person concerned. He said he became the subject of speculation in political circles, and more generally, as to who the former government minister might be.
He claimed that resulted in him being placed in the invidious position of having to address public speculation surrounding his involvement by issuing a statement dealing with those allegations about which he had no knowledge.
Given the level of rumour and innuendo, he said he felt obliged to step down from the various positions he held and did so while the investigation was under way.
The High Court was told last year that the Garda investigation had concluded and the Director of Public Prosecutions had informed Mr Carey no charges were to be brought against him arising out of the allegations.
Mr Carey sought damages over alleged breach of privacy and confidentiality and over alleged disclosure of confidential information during a criminal investigation.
The media defendants had admitted publication of articles by Independent News & Media plc but denied breach of privacy and confidentiality. Among various pleas, they claimed Mr Carey was not identified or identifiable from the articles, which they pleaded were true and published in the public interest. The other defendants had denied the articles were based on information from Garda sources.
After Mr Carey issued his statement, the media defendants published more articles on the allegations in which Mr Carey was named, including articles reporting his denial of the allegations.
Remy Farrell SC, instructed by James MacGuill solicitor for Mr Carey, who was in court, on Friday told Ms Justice Siobhán Stack that the case had settled and an apology would be read to the court.
In the apology, read by Declan Doyle SC, for the Garda Commissioner and State, the Commissioner acknowledged that during the course of an investigation into allegations relating to Mr Carey, information in relation to the matter “found its way into the public domain”.
The Commissioner, the apology stated, “accepts that this should never have happened and acknowledges that this was the cause of severe and wholly unjustified distress to Mr Carey and those close to him and damage to his reputation”.
“The disclosure of confidential Garda information in an unauthorised and uncontrolled manner in relation to investigations is damaging to the integrity of the investigative process and damaging to public confidence in An Garda Síochána,” the apology stated. “The public is entitled to expect that relevant policy and procedures in place are adhered to.”
The damages, plus the costs, apart from those arising from orders made in pre-trial applications against the newspaper, will be paid by the Garda Commissioner and State defendants. Independent Newspapers will make a €75,000 contribution towards the costs.
The case was struck out based on the agreed terms of settlement.
Outside court afterwards, Mr Carey read a statement saying that, in November 2015, he was subjected to “the gravest allegations”, and had “my character vilified and my good name destroyed”.
“Those who knew me throughout Ireland and abroad, and from every sector of society knew that there was no substance to the allegations. However, the scale of the publicity meant that I chose to step aside from my public functions in the interest of others until I could demonstrate the allegations were false.”
“This has occurred but at an enormous price to me and those close to me, who have put up with so much over the last seven and a half years.”
He said he had fully resumed his public duties and welcomed the end of the litigation.
“In particular I welcome the apology from the Garda Commissioner and the vindication evidenced by the payment of substantial damages and my entire costs.”
Mr Carey thanked those who stood by him, including his legal team of Remy Farrell SC, Tony McGillicuddy SC and solicitor James MacGuill, adding he was particularly thinking of the late Frank Callanan SC, who was “of great assistance”.
“I hope that lessons are learned from the wrongful treatment that I was subjected to and that no other citizen has their rights violated in such a fashion on the future.”