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Irish High Court rejects Lowry defamation action against Sam Smyth

13 February 2012

The High Court in Ireland has rejected of a bid by Independent TD Michael Lowry to seek a summary ruling in a defamation case over comments made by journalist and NUJ member Sam Smyth.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, welcomed the ruling by High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, calling it "a great day for journalism and a vindication of the courageous journalism of Sam Smyth."

He said:

"All journalists and all citizens with an interest in the existence of honest, independent journalism will welcome the fact that Michael Lowry has failed in his attempt to nobble Sam Smyth. In taking legal action against Sam Smyth rather than the publication or broadcaster, Michael Lowry was putting at risk the livelihood of a reporter who was clearly acting in the public interest.
"Sam Smyth's only crime was to draw attention to the corrupt nature of Michael Lowry's behaviour in the Irish Independent and TV3. This ruling has positive implications for Irish journalism and on that basis is very welcome. It is also a welcome vindication of the stand taken by Sam Smyth, who has shown himself to be a journalist of courage and commitment."

Séamus Dooley congratulated Sam Smyth on the outcome of the case. He expressed the hope that other public figures would "learn the lessons from this expensive legal adventure on the part of a tax-cheating politician."

The case centred around an article by Sam Smyth in the Irish Independent and comments he made on TV3, when he said Michael Lowry had been "caught with his hand in the till". Michael Lowry had argued that the words used were understood to mean that he was a thief, and a corrupt politician.

Sam Smith said the comments were true in their natural and ordinary meaning and consisted of an honest opinion. In his affidavit, the journalist also pointed to information gleaned from information from proceedings in the Moriarty Tribunal.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns agreed and said it seems clear that the defendant has a good arguable case in respect of both publications.

Tags: , sam smyth, defamation, irish independent, tv3, newspapers, moriarty tribunal, high court ireland