RTÉ settles libel action with Cork former nursing home owner


RTÉ has settled a libel action with the former owner of a nursing home following a Prime Time Investigates programme on social welfare fraud, which the nursing home owner alleged defamed her.

Mary Philomena Porter (59) of Riverview House, Midleton, Co Cork, had brought an action for defamation against RTÉ and RTÉ Commercial Enterprises arising out of the Prime Time Investigates programme broadcast on December 7th, 2009.

But yesterday at Midleton Circuit Court, Ms Porter’s barrister, Tom Power, told Judge Patrick Moran that the matter had been settled between the parties and could be struck out following the reading out of a statement of clarification by RTÉ.

Mr Power explained that the programme in question had represented Ms Porter in a “certain way which distressed her greatly” but RTÉ had since agreed to clarify the matter broadcast in the programme which had caused her upset.

Ms Porter was a resident in Midleton and was well known in the area, having written a book called You May Talk Now, about her experiences growing up in the Convent of Mercy Orphanage in Cobh, said Mr Power.

Barrister for RTÉ Brendan Kirwan read out a statement of clarification about the programme in which the broadcaster made it clear it never sought to impugn Ms Porter’s good name and was happy to acknowledge her good reputation.

“In its Prime Time Investigates programme of 7 December, 2009, RTÉ addressed the important issue of Social Welfare fraud – a matter of significant public interest. For purposes of explanation of a serious and substantial fraud committed by another person, the programme referred to Mary Philomena Porter,” said Mr Kirwan.

“RTÉ is happy to state that it did not suggest nor does it suggest that Mary Philomena Porter was a participant in or guilty of that fraud or any fraud, and RTÉ is happy to acknowledge her good reputation in the community.”

The Irish Times understands the action stems from a specific case featured in the programme relating to a woman who had been a resident in the nursing home and died in 2007.

No details of the settlement were disclosed in court, but it was confirmed that RTE had agreed to pay Ms Porter’s full costs.