Mary Lou McDonald takes High Court case against RTÉ over alleged defamation

Action part of growing trend by Sinn Féin to use courts against claims they say are false

The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has started High Court proceedings against RTÉ seeking damages for alleged defamation.

Ms McDonald’s claim is understood to relate to a discussion on Morning Ireland in February during which reference was made to the treatment of women who were sexually assaulted by members of Sinn Féin and the IRA.

The discussion followed a controversy over Government politicians being excluded from speaking at a rally organised by the National Women’s Council.

On Tuesday a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “”This is now a matter in litigation before the courts and it would be inappropriate to comment.”


The former Republican activist and Labour senator Máiría Cahill, who was not a contributor to the programme, has been highly critical of Ms McDonald’s attitudes towards her own case.

Ms McDonald’s defamation action against RTÉ is part of a growing trend by Sinn Féin figures to use the courts against what they believe to be false claims made by political opponents and members of the media.

Last year the Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire settled a High Court action for defamation against RTÉ for a sum believed to be in excess of €150,000 after a discussion on Liveline.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said he is “not aware” of any party policy to pursue an increasing number of legal claims against the media or otherwise.

Asked about Ms McDonald’s decision to sue RTÉ, he said: “I’m not going to comment on it. It is a matter that is with the lawyers, and whether it’s a civil case or not, I’m going to leave it to the lawyers for them to address.”

When asked if it was Sinn Féin policy to pursue an increasing number of legal cases, he said: “I’m not aware of any such policy but again, I’m not going to comment on this particular action.”

When it was put to him that Sinn Féin may have a higher number of such of such cases before the courts in comparison to other parties, he said: “I’m not aware of that. I don’t track the actions taken by individual members of the party. But people have a right to a good name, people have a right to combat what they may see as defamation in respect of whether it is in our party or others but like I say I’m not going to comment on this matter as it is with the solicitors at this point in time.”

Ms McDonald is being represented by McCartan & Burke Solicitors. An RTE spokesman said the broadcaster “does not comment on legal matters”.

Recently, the MEPs Mick Wallace and Claire Daly also lodged proceedings against the broadcaster.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times