Litigation and Dispute ResolutionMarch 04, 2019

Dillon Eustace defends Sunday Business Post in recent defamation action by Denis O'Brien

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Dillon Eustace Partner, John Doyle, represented Post Publications Limited in the successful defence of the recent defamation action brought by businessman Denis O’Brien arising from articles published in the Sunday Business Post in April 2015 regarding the contents of a confidential report which had been prepared by PWC for the Irish government just prior to the banking crisis of 2008. The high profile case, which ran for 17 days before a judge and a jury in the High Court, concluded on 1 March.

The defendant’s legal team, which included Michael McDowell SC and Shane English BL, had pleaded the “Section 26 defence” of fair and reasonable publication, in good faith in the course of the discussion of a subject of public interest, for the public benefit. Whether that defence had been established was to have been a matter for the jury to decide. In the end, the jury found that Mr O’Brien had not been defamed as a result of the meanings which he had attributed to the articles and so they did not therefore need to answer the question about the Section 26 defence which had been further down the issue paper.

This case has generated considerable media and political interest and has put the spotlight back on Ireland’s defamation laws, a decade on from the introduction of the “new” Act which essentially codified the previous common law position. What reform, if any, flows from this case remains to be seen.