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Sam Smyth awarded costs in Lowry defamation case

6 October 2011

The Circuit Court in Ireland has granted journalist and broadcaster Sam Smyth legal costs against Deputy Michael Lowry following the NUJ member's successful defence of a defamation action against him.

The NUJ has welcomed the decision. Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, said it was a source of satisfaction and relief to Mr Smyth and was a striking demonstration of the effectiveness of the new Defamation Act.

Michael Lowry had sought the declaration under the 2009 Defamation Act, which allows for a legal shortcut by way of summary judgment on the contention that Sam Smyth had no possible defence to the claim.

Sam Smyth stood over comments in the Irish Independent and on TV3, arguing in court they were true and based on his honest opinion and constituted fair and reasonable publication in matters of public interest.

The case centres on comments concerning the McCracken and Moriarty tribunals and their inquiries into matters relating to Michael Lowry's finances. Michael Lowry had alleged that Sam Smyth made false and defamatory remarks about him.

Last December, Judge Heneghan ruled that Michael Lowry had not established that Mr Smyth had no defence to the allegations of defamation. Her January decision has been appealed to the High Court. Today, Judge Heneghan granted costs to Sam Smyth and refused a stay on her order pending the High Court case.

Séamus Dooley said:

"The decision of Mr Lowry to use the provisions of the Defamation Act to sue Sam Smyth as an individual journalist was a major source of worry to Mr Smyth. Using the defences open to him, Sam Smyth was able to defend his professional reputation as a journalist of integrity.
"The Independent Newspaper chapel joins with me in welcoming the decision of the court. I hope this decision will give other people who seek to inhibit investigative journalism through use of the Defamation Act pause for thought."

Barry McCall, NUJ Vice President, described Sam Smyth as being "among the longest serving investigative journalists in Ireland.

"His steadfast refusal to be cowed by Michael Lowry – or other people with power and influence - is an example to all journalists. This weekend, the NUJ in Ireland hosts a seminar entitled 'Media Matters: Serving the Public Interest' and this judgment will provide a context to our deliberations."

Tags: , sam smyth, moriarty tribunal, defamation, courts, irish independent, tv3, newspapers, broadcasting, investigative journalism