During a 2015 program presented by Irish public broadcaster RTE, panelists discussed Nicky Kehoe, the political manager for the Sinn Féin political party. One panelist, Joe Costello, claimed that Kehoe was a “a member of the IRA army council” and that he instructed Sinn Féin’s representatives on the Dublin City Council how to vote.
Kehoe used to be an IRA gunman who had been to jail twice, but he denied the allegations that he was currently part of the IRA and that he could direct his party’s city councilors.
Even though the comments were made by an RTE guest and not RTE itself, Kehoe sued RTE for libel over the comments. During the trial, Kehoe explained his reasoning for suing, RTE reported: “I have worked to reclaim my name for 26 years and in one swipe I’m back to square one. I believe in my good name and I believe people who would not like me believe I have a good name. My name is very important to me.”
RTE spokesperson Maureen Catterson told iMediaEthics that it is “considering” appealing the ruling. “RTÉ is committed to the principle of robust political debate as one of the pillars of democracy – indeed, we went to Court to uphold that principle,” she wrote.
This month, however, Kehoe won his case, and RTE must pay him €3,500. According to RTE’s own news report on the case, “The jury found RTÉ was 35% responsible, whereas Mr Costello was 65% responsible.” However, Kehoe only sued RTE and not Costello, which is why he’s only been awarded €3,500 out of a potential €10,000 total damages. iMediaEthics wrote to Kehoe’s lawyer, Thomas Hogan, for further comment. Hogan said, “This case is ongoing and I am not in a position to comment.”
After the verdict, Kehoe said outside the court, according to the Irish Times, “A jury of my peers has vindicated my name and I’m really, really happy with that because my name means a lot to me. I am a good person and I worked really hard for that. That’s the way I look at that.”