RTÉ settles Leech 'Liveline' libel for €250,000

 

Public relations consultant Monica Leech has settled for €250,000 her libel action against RTÉ over comments made by a caller to Liveline.

An apology was also read on behalf of RTÉ to Ms Leech at the High Court yesterday.

Ms Leech, who earned more than €300,000 for her work as a communications adviser to then environment minister Martin Cullen, heard the broadcast on her car radio in December 2004.

She sued the broadcaster over the call to presenter Joe Duffy and the case was listed for hearing before Mr Justice Peter Charleton and a jury yesterday.

However, after four hours of talks between the sides, the judge was told the action had been settled.

As part of the settlement, Mr Patrick Gageby SC, for RTÉ, read out an apology in court to Ms Leech.

It stated that the station had broadcast a discussion on its Liveline programme on December 16th, 2004, part of which related to Ms Monica Leech, the well-known communications consultant.

The apology stated that comments were made during the course of the discussion suggesting that Ms Leech had secured well-paid State contracts by virtue of having an adulterous sexual relationship with Mr Cullen.

"RTÉ accepts that these allegations were simply untrue and that Mrs Leech was gravely wronged by them," the apology stated.

"RTÉ further acknowledges her experience and qualifications for the contracts she undertook.

"RTÉ again apologises unreservedly for the undoubted distress that these comments caused her, her husband and her family. RTÉ in particular regrets that any contributor should have abused an opportunity to participate in one of its programmes."

The broadcaster has agreed to pay Ms Leech a sum in damages and has agreed to discharge her legal costs, it was stated.

Outside the court afterwards, Ms Leech, who was accompanied by her husband John and two sons, said she was very satisfied with the outcome.

However, she said, she was disappointed that it had taken RTÉ over two years to say it was sorry. She thanked her husband, sons and extended family for their unfailing love and support during the last "difficult two years".

In her action, Ms Leech had sought damages, including aggravated and/or exemplary damages for libel, along with special damages including loss of earnings.

A self-employed communications consultant, of Otteran Place, South Parade, Waterford, she claimed she heard the broadcast live while driving in her car and was shocked, distraught and shaken. She claims her son was bullied and teased at school because of the broadcast and returned home in tears.

It was claimed that in November and December 2004, Ms Leech was the subject of prominent and sustained media coverage by RTÉ and other media organs arising from the comments by the caller on the Liveline programme.

Presenter Joe Duffy had cut off the call straight away and apologised on air. Mr Duffy attended the court yesterday.