Tuesday, November 15, 2022

High Court reporters

A solicitor who sued over defamatory comments made by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (Isme) Association has received an apology in the High Court as well as €75,000 in damages.

Limerick solicitor Gerard O’Neill sued over the comments in press releases by Isme about a personal injuries action in which he represented two people involved in a traffic incident.

In a 2019 High Court judgement, a judge dismissed one of those claims as probably fraudulent and dismissed the other because evidence was misleading and exaggerated. Arising out of that judgement, Isme issued three statements in 2019 – on September 23rd, December 11th and December 16th – which wrongly suggested Mr O’Neill had been guilty of professional misconduct.

A complaint by ISME to the Law Society about him was rejected.

Mr O’Neill, whose practice is at Glentworth Street, Limerick, issued High Court defamation proceedings against ISME in 2020.

On Tuesday, the High Court was told by Paul O’Higgins SC, with Peter Shanley BL, that the case had been settled and an apology would be read to the court by Shane English BL, for Isme.

In the apology, Isme said it “wishes to acknowledge that its statements were untrue and were deeply unfair to Mr O’Neill, both personally and professionally”.

“Isme wishes to acknowledge the upset and distress which its words caused to Mr O’Neill.

“Isme wishes to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Mr O’Neill and his family for its remarks and has paid him damages and his legal costs.”

It was revealed last month by Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell that the association’s underwriter had settled Mr O’Neill’s action for €75,000.

Those details were contained in a letter from Mr McDonnell to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee in which Isme complained about the continued delay with reform of the Defamation Act.

After the apology was read out, Mr Justice Alexander Owens struck out the case with an order for costs in favour of the plaintiff.

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