Lowry fails in ruling on Smyth claim
Independent TD Michael Lowry arriving at the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin Castle in April 2009. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times
COLM KEENA Public Affairs Correspondent
Independent deputy for North Tipperary Michael Lowry has failed to get a summary ruling in a defamation case where he claimed journalist Sam Smyth had accused him of being a thief.
Judge Margaret Heneghan delivered judgment today in a case under the 2009 Defamation Act where Mr Lowry was seeking a summary ruling that comments by Smyth were defamatory, that Smyth had no reasonable defence to the comments, and that an order for a correction should be made.
In a hearing in December Smyth had argued that he had not called Mr Lowry a thief, but that he did believe the politician was a liar and a tax cheat.
Judge Heneghan said she had read through the exhibits attached to Smyth’s affidavit, which included matters to do with the McCracken and Moriarty tribunals, Mr Lowry’s dealings with Dunnes Stores, his personal statement to the Dáil in 1996, and the two publications that Mr Lowry is alleging were defamatory.
She said the question was whether it was “too far fetched” to believe Smyth had a defence. She had found it was not so. She did not find the material incompatible with the defences put forward. The matter would have to be resolved in a full hearing, she said.
Smyth had argued that he could defend himself on the grounds of truth, honest opinion and fair and reasonable comment.
During an appearance last year on the TV3 programme Tonight with Vincent Browne Smyth had said: “The first that we caught sort, on video with hand in till was Michael Lowry.”
He later said he was referring to Mr Lowry being engaged in tax fraud.
In an article in the Irish Independent around the same time he referred to the Moriarty tribunal investigating property transactions with a total value of £5 million sterling, in the context of its inquiries into the 1995 mobile phone licence competition.
Mr Lowry said the comment on TV3 was understood to mean that he was a thief, a corrupt politician, was unfit to be a TD and was dishonest and untrustworthy. Thief apart, he made identical claims about the Irish Independent article.
He was not in court. When Smyth’s counsel Eoin McCullough SC asked for costs, Mr Lowry’s counsel, Michael Giblin SC, said he would like to discuss the ruling with is client. Judge Heneghan adjourned the matter of costs to a date to be decided.
The 2009 Defamation Act introduced a mechanism whereby defamation cases could be tried summarily in situations where the court found there was no arguable defence.