Cross examination frustrates De Rossa


THE MINISTER for Social Welfare, Mr De Rossa, claimed he was being put through a "nonsensical cross examination" about history in the High Court yesterday.

Mr Patrick MacEntee SC, for the Sunday Independent, cross examining Mr De Rossa, had asked him if it was the case that the Workers' Party had any connection with illegal activities.

Mr De Rossa said his case was that he was suing the Sunday Independent for a gross libel against him that he was a criminal, a drug pusher, a pimp, a forger, a bank robber. Clearly, they had no way of proving that, "otherwise you wouldn't be putting me through this nonsensical cross examination about history".

Mr De Rossa was being cross examined on the third day of his libel action against Independent Newspapers. He is suing over an article by Eamon Dunphy in the Sunday Independent on December 13th, 1992.

He said he wanted the newspaper to withdraw these serious allegations about him. He was not a criminal, he had never been a criminal, he had never been accused of being a criminal and had never been convicted of being a criminal.

That was what he wanted the Sunday Independent to do, to withdraw these gross allegations.

Mr MacEntee said: "I have no hesitation in saying that my clients do not contend..."

Mr De Rossa, waving the Eamon Dunphy article, said: "What's this?"

Mr MacEntee said: "It is our case, Mr De Rossa, that the article, doesn't say that, there's no contention ...

Mr De Rossa said: "Mr MacEntee, your clients say ... Mr De Rossa read out several paragraphs of the article. He then said: "This is a direct accusation of me as a criminal."

Mr MacEntee asked him to read the next paragraph.

Mr De Rossa then read: "If one is to allow him [Mr De Rossa the benefit of the doubt, and why not, one must nevertheless have some misgivings about those with whom he so recently associated."

He said the benefit of the doubt was something you allowed to a criminal, to somebody in court accused of a serious crime. He was not a criminal. He was not accused of serious crimes and the only people accusing him of serious crime were the Sunday Independent.

If the newspaper was not saying he was a criminal, it should withdraw it and apologise.

Mr MacEntee said: "My clients are not saying that you are a criminal in any of those senses."

Mr De Rossa: "In what sense?"

Mr MacEntee: "In no sense.

Mr De Rossa: "In no sense, thank you. Why is the Sunday Independent putting me through this, why couldn't they have said that four years ago when I asked for a retraction?

Mr Justice Moriarty said to Mr De Rossa that the strength of his feelings was pretty clear. The last question Mr MacEntee had asked was whether the WP had any connection with illegal activities.

Mr De Rossa said it was the case that the WP had no connection with criminal activities. If the Sunday Independent was not accusing him of being a criminal, because they had never said, why had they never withdrawn it and apologised?

Later, Mr MacEntee asked about the WP's relationship with communist parties internationally. Mr De Rossa said they sought to establish relationships with a lot of other parties, including the North Korean Communist Party.

Mr MacEntee said the North Korean party was hardly in reform mode. Mr De Rossa agreed. Counsel said it was an appalling oppressive party. Mr De Rossa said that was right but they did not change things by isolating people.

Mr MacEntee: "But if you had a choice of friends, the top of the list would not be North Korea."

Mr De Rossa: "It would depend on ..."

Mr MacEntee: "It would depend on how desperate you were for friends."

Mr De Rossa: "It would depend on how desperate you are for a brief that you would take this case."

Mr Justice Moriarty said he appreciated how frustrating it must be for Mr De Rossa but could he please try to deal with Mr MacEntee's questions. If they became unfair either his counsel would intervene or he (the judge) would.

Mr De Rossa said the judge would appreciate that he was in circumstances of confrontation. "I would normally have the freedom of the Dail to counter attack and I am simply trying to adjust myself to the new rules."

The case will resume on Tuesday.