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Michael Lowry Refused Request In Defamation Case

North Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry

Judge Margaret Heneghan has refused, Independent TD Mr Michael Lowry, a declaration that he was defamed by journalist and broadcaster Mr Sam Smyth on TV3’s ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne‘ programme and in a newspaper article.

Mr Lowry TD,  Holy Cross, Thurles, Co Tipperary, had sought the declaration under the 2009 Defamation Act, which allows for a legal short-cut by way of summary judgment on the contention that Mr Smyth had no possible defence to the politician’s claims.

Judge Heneghan, in a reserved judgment today in the Circuit Civil Court, said she was satisfied Mr Lowry had not established that Mr Smyth had no defence to the allegations of defamation.

Mr Lowry’s claim may now go to a full hearing before another judge. The case to date has been dealt with on the basis of sworn statements by both Mr Lowry and Mr Smyth and today’s decision has no significance in any eventual overall outcome.

The case centres on comments made by Mr Smyth concerning the Mc Cracken and Moriarty Tribunals and their inquiries into matters relating to Mr Lowry’s finances. Mr Lowry alleges that Smyth made false and defamatory remarks about him in an Irish Independent article and again on the TV3 current affairs show.

Mr Lowry claims that the newspaper article and a comment by Mr Smyth on television, that Mr Lowry had been “caught with his hand in the till ” were false and malicious and remarks that he was a thief, a corrupt politician, dishonest, untrustworthy and unfit to be a Minister or a TD.

Mr Lowry had sought a declaration that he had been defamed, asking for a court order directing publication of clarifying statements and an order prohibiting further publication of the alleged defamatory remarks.

Mr Smyth, The Gasworks, Barrow Street, Dublin, has stood over his comments and argues that they were true and based on his honest opinion and constituted both fair and reasonable publication in matters of public interest.

The journalist has been covering matters concerning Mr Lowry since the mid-1990’s and his story in November 1996 about Mr Lowry’s home having been renovated paid for by Dunnes Stores, led to Mr Lowry’s resignation as Minister for Communications.

Mr Lowry claimed the Irish Independent article under the heading “Tribunal will reveal findings on money trail to ex-minister” was about a matter yet to be adjudicated on by the Moriarty Tribunal, which was looking into whether any payments were made to him while he was a Minister.

Mr Smyth, in the newspaper article, had stated regarding English property transactions in Cheadle, Mansfield and Doncaster that “the total value of all of the property transactions involving Mr Lowry was around £5m.

This, Mr Lowry claimed, meant by way of innuendo he had unlawfully benefited from the transactions by awarding, as Minister for Communications, the Esat Digifone mobile phone licence to Irish and Malta businessman Denis O’Brien.

Barrister Eoin Mc Cullough, S.C., who appeared for Mr Smyth, applied for an order for costs against Mr Lowry, but the matter was adjourned on the application of Martin Giblin S.C., for Mr Lowry, to allow both sides “reflect” on the court’s judgment.

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