Late Donegal councillor’s estate to continue case against Gemma O’Doherty

Sean McEniff defamation claim arises from documentary about disappeared child Mary Boyle

The estate of Co Donegal councillor and hotelier Sean McEniff, who died two years ago, was on Wednesday substituted as plaintiff in a defamation claim McEniff had launched against journalist Gemma O'Doherty.

Eamon McArdle, an accountant who is acting as executor for Mr McEniff’s estate, was allowed on Wednesday by Judge Jacqueline Linnane in the Circuit Civil Court to continue the defamation proceedings on behalf of the estate which can sue for damages of €75,000.

Mr McArdle’s application had been made before Judge Linnane earlier this month and the judge had adjourned it to allow for further affidavits to be lodged in the case. On Wednesday she granted Mr McArdle leave to continue the case on behalf of the estate despite opposition from O’Doherty’s legal team.

The matter, which arises from a documentary, Mary Boyle: The Untold Story, about the unsolved disappearance of the child in 1977, will now go to a full trial. The video was posted by O'Doherty on YouTube where it has been viewed almost 800,000 times.


It claimed a politician had in effect prevented gardaí­ from pursuing a particular suspect into the disappearance of the six-year-old, alleging the unidentified politician had made “a phone call.”

McEniff issued statements five years ago saying he could not have been the politician referred to in the documentary “by rumour and innuendo” surrounding the allegation. He had denied having any knowledge of the phone call involved.

He issued legal proceedings against O’Doherty in 2016, shortly before his death, and while a libel action would previously have died with the plaintiff, the 2009 Defamation Act allowed for the estate of a deceased person to apply to continue the case.

Allthough no particular politician was named on the documentary there has been widespread speculation in south Donegal that Mr McEniff was the politician it claimed made a call to a senior Garda which allegedly resulted in themain suspect not being arrested in the disappearance of Mary Boyle near her grandparents’ home at Cashelard, Ballyshannon, 42 years ago.

The Garda has been keeping the case under review. A date will now be set by the Circuit Court for a hearing of the case.