Ex-TD seeks orders against Facebook and Twitter over allegedly defamatory posts

Frank O’Rourke claims posts were untrue and designed to show he was unfit to serve Dáil

Former Fianna Fáil TD Frank O Rourke has brought High Court proceedings over what he says are several untrue and defamatory social media posts about his personal life. The posts were published on social media platforms shortly before last February’s general election.

Mr O’Rourke has brought separate proceedings against Facebook and Twitter seeking information aimed at identifying the posters of material which he claims was defamatory.

He claims the statements were designed “to cause maximum professional damage to me” in the 2020 general election at a time when he was going through “a difficult marriage breakdown.” He claims members of the public told him they had seen “horrible stuff” about him on social media, and that his political supporters received “negative feedback on the doorsteps of North Kildare” following the publication of the comments.

He alleges untrue posts were made on Facebook pages in early February, on pages associated with the Celbridge area, about his family life and his personal financial matters.

He claims the posts were designed to show that he was totally unfit to serve in Dáil Éireann. The posts were “wholly untrue” and were intended to injure him in the eyes of the public, he says.

He also claims that a tweet was sent out from an account shortly before the election which called on people not to vote for him, and repeated untrue and defamatory statements about his personal life.

Mr O’Rourke seeks orders (they are known as “Norwich Pharmacal” orders) against both Twitter International Company and Facebook Ireland Ltd so he can identify the posters with a view to suing them for defamation.

Represented by Declan Doyle SC, Mr O Rourke wants the social media companies to provide him with details about the account holders who published the allegedly defamatory material, such as account holders’ names and addresses and IP addresses.

Following correspondence with the social media firms he claims he cannot obtain the information unless he gets court orders against the defendants.

Mr O’Rourke, of Dublin Road, Celbridge, was elected TD for North Kildare in 2016. He lost his seat last February after finishing fifth in the four-seater constituency. His cases were briefly mentioned before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds at the High Court on Friday.

The judge, on an ex-parte basis, granted permission to serve short notice of his applications for “Norwich Pharmacal” orders on Twitter and Facebook. The matter will return before the court next week.