Journalist 'accused' of fabrication in O'Dea's affidavit

 

NEWSPAPER CORRESPONDENCE:THE LIMERICK newspaper journalist to whom Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea made false accusations about a Sinn Féin councillor has said an affidavit by Mr O’Dea had effectively accused him of making up the allegation.

In an affidavit to the High Court in April last year, Mr O’Dea “categorically and emphatically” denied claiming in an interview with the journalist that Maurice Quinlivan had a connection with a brothel.

The High Court case arose after Mike Dwane reported in the Limerick Chronicle the Minister as saying: “I suppose I am going a bit too far when I say this but I’d like to ask Mr Quinlivan, is the brothel still closed?”

The High Court heard a plea from Mr Quinlivan for an injunction against Mr O’Dea from repeating his brothel allegations during the upcoming local election campaign, in which he was a candidate.

In December, Mr O’Dea withdrew his denial of having made the statement about Mr Quinlivan and agreed to pay the Sinn Féin councillor damages plus his legal costs.

In an article for this mornings Limerick Leader, a sister paper of the Chronicle, Dwane contends that it was “extraordinary” that Mr O’Dea knew that the interview for the Chronicle had been recorded, but never contacted him prior to making the affidavit.

He said what was recorded for the newspaper interview “made a nonsense of the High Court affidavit”. He said Mr O’Dea could not possibly allow the case to go to trial once he was aware of what was actually said. “What he had deposed in a sworn affidavit was palpably untrue,” he wrote.

Dwane disclosed that the first contact made with Mr O’Dea after the affidavit was by the editor of the Limerick Leader Alan English, who arranged a meeting with Mr O’Dea and showed him a transcript of the relevant part of the interview. This meeting took place on foot of concerns raised by Dwane about the affidavit and its implications. He said the existence for the tape made a settlement in favour of Mr Quinlivan inevitable.

“The tape meant that Willie O’Dea didn’t have a leg to stand on,” he added.

In the course of today’s article, Dwane also points out that he paraphrased Mr O’Dea’s false allegations about Mr Quinlivan’s association with a brothel in the opening paragraph.

“Why did he not check with me or this newspaper what exactly was on the tape before he went off and swore a four-page affidavit? His allegation, after all, was paraphrased in the very first paragraph of the original story.”

He said he found it extraordinary that Mr O’Dea went ahead with an exceptionally detailed affidavit “without picking up the phone and asking me for clarification on what he had said five weeks previously”. He continued: “I never considered I had much of a reputation to defend until I was effectively accused by a Minister of fabricating an allegation.”

Separately, documents from the legal proceedings show that Mr O’Dea withdrew another statement he made about the interview. After Mr Quinlivan issued legal proceedings against Mr O’Dea, the Minister, in a solicitor’s letter dated March 27th, suggested that the quoted statement had not been made spontaneously but was made in reply to a question put to him by the journalist.

But in the course of a judgement delivered on April 20th, Mr Justice Cooke noted that Mr O’Dea now accepted that the statement was made voluntarily.

A transcript made of the recording of the interview was made available to Mr O’Dea by the Limerick Leader some time after he swore the affidavit, which established that he had indeed volunteered the false accusation that Mr Quinlivan was associated with the brothel.

The Sinn Féin member took two separate legal proceedings against Mr O’Dea. The first was a motion in the High Court seeking an injunction restraining Mr O’Dea from repeating the statement he made to the newspaper. The case was decided in April last year.

The second case was the substantive case for defamation taken by Mr Quinlivan which was settled last December. Mr O’Dea paid damages and costs to Mr Quinlivan after accepting that he had falsely accused him of being associated with the brothel. He also accepted that a statement contained in an affidavit he prepared for the injunction hearing was false. In the statement, he denied ever making the statement.

The injunction sought by Mr Quinlivan was under the Prevention of Electoral Abuses Act 1923, Section 11 of which creates a criminal offence of making or publishing a false statement of fact in relation to a candidate.

Section 11 of the Act also gives the courts power to restrain by injunction any repetition of the false statement.

In the judgment, Mr Justice Cooke states that Mr O’Dea accepted that the apartment was owned by Mr Quinlivan’s brother, Nessan Quinlivan, but that Mr O’Dea “denies ever having said otherwise either to the journalist or to anyone else”. This categoric denial and the absence of a direct quote attributed to Mr O’Dea meant that the article did “not constitute clear evidence of the making or publication of a false statement of fact as is required by Section 11”.