FF’s Thomas Byrne blocks Google’s use of namesake’s image

Politician alleges publication on Google Knowledge Graph is ‘grossly defamatory’

Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Byrne has secured interim High Court orders restraining Google from publishing a photo image of convicted solicitor Thomas Byrne accompanying a profile of the politician, who is also a solicitor.

Mr Byrne alleges the publication on the Google Knowledge Graph is “clearly and grossly defamatory” and that Google Ireland Ltd has no defence to his claims.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said today he was satisfied to grant the interim order, under Section 33 of the Defamation Act 2009, restraining publication of the image of Thomas Byrne, convicted solicitor of Walkinstown, Dublin, "as a photo and description" of the Fianna Fáil Senator.

The judge said he was making the interim order because he was satisfied the publication was clearly defamatory and that Google Ireland Ltd had no defence to the claim.


He returned the order to Tuesday next.

The order was sought ex-parte - meaning only one side was represented.

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for Mr Byrne, said the publication appeared to be a mistake with no malicious intent on Google’s part but three efforts to contact Google with a view to have the photograph removed had elicited no result.

Mr Byrne had also tried to use the self-correcting mechanism on the Google site to remove the material but to no avail, counsel added.

He said Mr Byrne, formerly a Meath East TD, had been informed by a member of the public last Saturday about the image of the convicted solicitor Thomas Byrne, with an address in Walkinstown, Dublin, appearing alongside the Senator's profile on the Google Knowledge Graph.

His side did not know when the publication first appeared, counsel added.

Mr Byrne’s solicitor had written to Google Ireland at its address at Barrow Street, Dublin, about the matter seeking to have the image removed and Mr Byrne himself had also sent a communication to Google to the same effect but had received nothing other than a “standard form reply” to his own communication, counsel said.

There had been no response to letters from his solicitor sent on November 26th and 27th last.

That was why Mr Byrne was seeking the court orders, counsel said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times