Ex-TD ‘hugely defamed’ Sinn Féin activist on RTÉ radio show

Defamation action by party’s political manager Nicky Kehoe to commence on Thursday


A defamation action by Sinn Féin political manager Nicky Kehoe against RTÉ is expected to begin on Thursday in the High Court.

Mr Kehoe claims he was defamed in comments made by former Labour Party TD Joe Costello during a live Saturday with Claire Byrne radio programme on October 24th, 2015.

Mr Kehoe says Mr Costello falsely stated that he was a member of the Provisional IRA army council and in that role attended meetings of Dublin City Council and served as a “puppetmaster” directing how Sinn Féin councillors would vote.

RTÉ denies he was defamed and says it is not liable for the matters he complains of.

A jury was empanelled on Wednesday by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.

Before they were selected, all potential jurors were told by the judge that if they were members of Sinn Féin or party activists, or were employed by or had connections with RTÉ or the Claire Byrne programme, they should not serve on the jury and should inform the judge of that.

Giving a brief synopsis of the case earlier to the jury panel, the judge said Mr Kehoe is the party’s political manager and has served as a director of elections. He is a well known Sinn Féin member who previously represented the party on Dublin City Council, he said.

The judge said Mr Kehoe says he was “hugely defamed” during a conversation on the radio programme involving Mr Costello and SF TD Eoin Ó Broin which focused on Mr Kehoe’s position in the party.

RTÉ had not held up its hands, the judge said. It said the conversation took place but in circumstances where it was not liable for the matters Mr Kehoe complains over, he said. RTÉ also did not accept that what was said was capable of bearing the defamatory meaning Mr Kehoe claims it did, he said.

That was a matter for the jury, the judge said.

RTÉ also says Mr Ó Broin was able to “give as good as he got and defended Nicky Kehoe”. It was a public broadcast on a matter of public interest which enjoys protection in law, RTÉ also argued.

After empanelling a jury of six men and six women, the judge told them they would begin hearing the case on Thursday.